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books of the 



[iterarjr excellence, 
estness of purpoie, 
ormiit. 
\aturday Rtvino. 



ecollections. For 
onsummadon of all 
t permitted to flag. 



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TWO MARRIAGES. 

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london: CHAPMAIf & HAII, 193, PiccadiUy. 



ACaUITTED. 



3 S»w- 



BY 

MRS. GORDON SMYTHIES, 

luiHOB 0? "cousin geofpebt," " thb jilt," "the life of a bbavit, 
"true to thb last," &c. 



Faith is the star that gleams above, 

Hope is the flower that buds below ; 
Twin tokens of celestial love 

That out from Nature's bosom grow, 
And still alike in sky and sod, 
That star and blossom ever point to God." 

Poems by Charles Kent. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 

VOL. in. 



LONDON : 

TIKSLEY BROTHEES, 18, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND. 
1870. 

rAll rig'ht$ of Translation and Eeproduetion are reterved.l 



LONDOH : 

8ATIIL, BDTVaBDS AND CO., PHINTEES, CHANDOS STREET, 

COTENT GAHDEN. 



^^1 



ACQUITTED, 



CHAPTER I. 

" Will you think it very lonely, 

"When the twilight drawing round, 
You shall watch my empty corner 
On our hearth's beloved ground ; 
And you pause to hear, alas ! in vain. 
My tongue's familiar sound." 

Charles Kent. 

AUL joined Mary Lynn, Jasper, 
and the little girls as they came 
out of church. 
He had been shown into a front gallery 
seat, exactly opposite that in which they 
were, and as the light streamed in from a 
large upper window on Mary's sweet 
Madonna face and on young Jasper s wan 
features, he noticed with deep sympathy the 

VOL. III. 1 




ACQUITTED. 



unmistakeable evidences of the presence of 
that wasting disease, consumption. 

Paul had never before seen Jasper in so 
strong and searching a light, therefore he 
had never so fally realized the danger and 
the doom! Now he saw that the once 
glossy hair was damp and lustreless, the 
forehead tense, the temples hollow, the 
cheek-bones prominent and tinged with 
bright red, while the rest of the long, sharp 
face was lividly pale. Poor Jaspers fea- 
tures were beautiful and regular, his eyes 
large, and liis nose and mouth very fine, 
else the ravages of disease would have been 
more ghastly in effect. 

But Paul, who had seen the same face 
and form a year before in perfect health, 
felt his heart sink, and tears till his eyes at 
the awful change. 

Jasper was tall, as tall as Paul Penryn, 
but he lost much of his height by stooping, 
and his chest was narrow and hollow. 

You felt as you looked upon him that he 



ACQUITTED, 



could not be long for this world, and there- 
fore it was a comfort to Paul, who was 
beo^inmno- to love one of whom he now 
blushed to think he had been so madly 
jealous, to see how devout he was, how in 
spite of his weakness, he knelt throughout 
the litany — and how fervently those long, 
thin, white hands were clasped in prayer. 

Once or twice he became very pale, and 
Paul marked, without jealousy, Mary Lynn 
handing him her salts and vinaigrette, 
opening the door of the pew to admit more 
air, and wetting his pocket handkerchief 
with eau de Cologne. 

Lord Derwent never went to church; 
but he had tried to persuade Jasj)er, if he 
was indeed resolved to go, to have the car- 
riage out. It had rained during the night, 
and the father feared the ground might be 
damp; but Jasper declared that no horse 
should ever be harnessed on the Sabbath, to 
draw him, and he added that the walk 
would do him good. 



1—2 



ACQUITTED. 



Mary and Paul both advised him to go 
straight back with them to Altamount 
House; but he well knew that would de- 
prive them of their stroll in the Park, and 
as in everything his prhiciple was to sacri- 
fice self to others, he replied, that if Mr. 
Penryn would give him his arm, and they 
did not mind his resting now and then on 
a bench in the Park, he thought the walk 
would be both pleasant and beneficial to 
him. 

He insisted on their leaving him to rest 
on a bench under a spreading tree, while 
the little girls ran and gambolled on the 
grass, and while Mary and Paul took a 
stroll together. 

" I think he is faint," said Mary, " and 
I see the men are milkinc: the coavs out 
there. Let us try if we can get him a glass 
of ncAv milk. I remember reading in an 
old Family Medicine book belonging to 
father, and written by Dr. Buchan, that in 
consumption milk is more likely to effect a 



ACQUITTED. 



cure than anything that the doctors can 
prescribe." 

"Alas, Mary !" said Paul, " I fear neither 
milk nor any other remedy can do Jasper 
Ardennes any real good ! It is a sad thing 
for his father, and even I, cannot think of 
the doom of one so young and so very 
amiable, without a pang ; but when I saw 
him in church to-day, with the light full 
upon hhn, I am sure I saw what is com- 
monly called death in his face." 

Mary's eyes filled with tears as she said, 
^' We cannot tell what the South of France 
may do for him ; but come with me, and let 
us try to ,^et him some milk. He would 
not have the horses used to-day, he is 
always so eager to sacrifice his own ease 
and comfort to others, and to what he 
thinks right, but the walking to church, 
and then home all this way round, is quite 
too much for him !" 

" Poor Jasper," said Paul ; "I am sure 
he insisted on coming here, instead of 



ACQUITTED. 



going straight home, because he would not 
deprive us of our expected stroll, and the 
children of their gambols ! He is heavenly- 
minded and fit for the better world to 
which he is hastening. Oh,* Mary, were I 
as well prepared as he is, I should be glad 
indeed to leave this path of life which, so- 
bright and bordered with wild-flowers at 
first, becomes so dreary when on either side 
graves open and beloved ones drop inta 
them, and as we advance the world be- 
comes one vast cemetery watered with our 
tears, and dark with the yews and cypresses- 
that mark the spot where we have laid our 
darlings, until our own grave opens to 
receive us." 

"And from that dark and narrow bed," 
said Mary, " we rise to rejoin, in scenes of 
endless happiness, those w^ho are only gone 
before, if we have faith !" 

By this time they had reached the spot 
where stood the " milky mothers of the 
herd" with those large loving eyes and 



ACQUITTED. 



frasfrant breaths! The little orirls ran 
joyously up to partake of the sweet new 
milk, and for an extra penny the milkman 
sent a lad with a glass of milk to the invalid, 
who seemed much revived by it. Paul 
and Mary also partook of this nectar 
provided by nature, and soon after, Jasper 
leaning on Paul's strong arm, proceeded 
slowly homewards. Often the afflicted one 
stopped, panting for breath, often tor- 
mented by a wearing cough, and often 
harassed by a sharp pain in his side. But 
he did not complaiu, and when he marked 
the pity and anxiety in Mary's face, he 
said — 

" You fancy, Mary, that I suffer much 
more than I do; but when you see what a 
good appetite I have, and what an excellent 
dinner 1 shall make, I hope you'll be a 
little more cheerful !" 

Lord Derwent was on the balcony when 
they entered Grosvenor Square. He was 
looking eagerly out for the only being he 



ACQUITTED. 



really loved on earth, the only being who 
really loved him! 

He would not admit to his own heart 
that Jasper was in any real danger. 

He resented as a personal affront any 
unfavourable opinion, or desponding view 
of his son's case ! 

Jasper was now under the care of 

the celebrated Dr. H , of Albemarle 

Street, perhaps the only really scientific 
and experienced physician who believes in 
the curability of consumption, and who has 
justified that opinion by several indis- 
putable, and as the world says, miraculous 
cures ! 

Dr. H did not quite despair of 

Jasper Ardennes, although the disease was 
too far advanced when first he saw the 
sufferer, to admit of any very sanguine 
hopes. 

But Dr. H did not, as all the other 

physicians had done, at once doom the 
patient to death, and the father to despair ! 



ACQUITTED. 



And the system he pursued, and the 
remedies he administered, had done wonders 
in mitigating the symptoms, and assuaging 
that endless torment, the cough ! 

A feAV months earlier, it is probable Dr. 

H might have effected one of those 

wondrous cures of which all the world is 
cognizant, and which the friends of those 
beloved ones, suffering from lung disease, 
are never weary of quoting in public, and 
of dwelling on in private ! But in Jasper's 
case, as in that of so many others, Dr. 

H was called in too late ! And when 

this, alas! is the case, though he can do 
wonders in mitigating suffering, and in 
prolonging existence, he cannot save life ! 

Lord Derwent had a smile and a nod 
for Jasper, but he looked coldly and 
sternly on the rest of the party ; and he 
said to Mary Lynn, that she ought not to 
have let Jasper walk so far, and tire him- 
self out. 

" Dear father," said Jasper, " what can 



10 ACQUITTED. 



poor little Mary do, when a great strong 
fellow like me is quite resolved to have his 
own way. Mary did her utmost to get me 
home directly church Avas over, but I longed 
for a turn in the Park, and I have had 
some new milk there, fresh from the cow ;. 
and Mary's great authority, Dr. Buchan, 
says, it seems, there is no remedy like milk 
in such cases as mine. I feel twice as 
strong since I had that milk, and I shall 
have new milk in future ad lihitum.^^ 

Jasper's cheerful, hopeful manner re- 
stored Lord Derwent's good humour. 
Hope revived in his heart, and everything 
looked couleur de rose. 

He cordially welcomed Paul, and said he 
wished some arrangement could be made to 
secure Jasper such an agreeable companion 
during his winter in the South. 

Paul's heart beat high at the suggestion. 

A deep blush suiFiised the face which 
Mary instantly turned away. 

The thought of travelling in the sweet 



ACQUITTED. 11 



balmy South of France with Mary, perhaps 
of visiting beautiful Italy in company with 
that loved, lovely, and loving one, it 
seemed too much haj^piness for this earth. 
And yet why not? If Lord Derwent, aware 
that Paul was turning his time and talents 
to account as a city clerk, offered him a 
more lucrative appointment as companion- 
tutor to his son, why should he refuse so 
advantageous and captivating a proposal? 

'' Oh, father," said Jasper, *' if Mr. Paul 
Penryn's present engagements do not pre- 
vent his joining our party, it would be 
such a great pleasure and comfort to me 
to have his company. He is a better 
scholar than I am, and has studied much 
harder while preparing for an open scholar- 
ship at Oxford ; but I am not so far behind 
him as to make it a bore to him to read 
with me ; and I should like to keep up the 
Latin and Greek I have worked pretty hard 
to acquire." 

'^We will think about it," said Lord 



ACQUITTED. 



Derwent ; " and when I have considered 
the matter a httle I will talk it over with 
Mr. Paul Penryn. But," he added, with 
aristocratic and characteristic insolence, 
''if I eno;ao;e him to read with vou, no 
matter whether you are or are not advanced 
enough to make it pleasant to him, people 
in his situation must never feel bored by 
those in ours." 

This was said while Paul was on the 
balcony with the little girls; they having 
dragged him out, rather against his will, to 
tell them the real Latin name of a butterfly, 
who was rocking himself in a rose that was 
blooming on a beautiful rose-tree there. 
He therefore did not hear the latter part of 
the conversation. 

But Mary did, and her colour came and 
went as she listened. 

Little did Lord Derwent imagine what a 
tumult of delio-ht was heavino; the youns: 
girl's bosom at the thought of Paul Penryn's 
being of their party during their winter in 



ACQUITTED. 13 



the South ; nor yet what indignation she 
felt at the insolence of Lord Derwent's last 
remark. 

She was mollified, however, when Jasper 
replied, "I can never think with you, 
father, on that subject. Paul Penryn is a 
perfect gentleman, and the first duke in the 
land can be no more. I look upon him as 
an equal, and shall always treat him as 
one." 

''When you are older, and know the 
world better, my boy, your views will 
alter," said Lord Derwent, coldly. 

It was now the middle of August, and in 
order to keep Jasper as long as possible 

under the care of Dr. H , it was decided 

that they were not to leave London till the 
end of October. 

So there was plenty of time for consider- 
ing and consulting; and in the meantime 
Jasper formed a real attachment for Paul 
Penryn — an attachment which Paul warmly 
reciprocated. 



14 ACQUITTED. 



CHAPTER II. 

" "When ev'ry tree Spring's livery wears, 
I hear the cuckoo sing, 
And listen as a man who hears, 
Yet hears not anything. 

For while upon the wavering spray 

The cuckoo sadly sings, 
]\Iy thoughts are wandering far away 

To other sunny springs. 

That cuckoo on the bough still sings, 

But her notes fall drearily; 
This Spring may be like other Springs, 

But it seems not so to me." 

AViLLiAii GoKDON Smythies : Golden Leisures. 

F Lord Derwent and Jasper had had 

their own way Paul would have 

spent all his time at Altamount 

House. The father, who was ever on the 

watch, remarked that his son while reading 




ACQUITTED. 15 



and discussing an ode of Horace or a fine 
passage of Homer or Aristophanes with 
Paul, coughed much less frequently than 
usual, and did not so often put his hand to 
his side as was his wont, with an expression 
of pain and a low moan. 

Jasper was highly intellectual, and ab- 
sorbed by classical discussion, or by the 
nice appreciation of some fine passage, or 
carried away by some argument with Paul 
as to the reading of some disputed phrase, 
he would look and be his former happy, 
merry self for a few minutes. But alas! 
the pang was only suspended — the wearing 
fit of coughing was only deferred ; and after 
a brief interval of delicious hope, Lord 
Derwent would hurry from the room with 
tears in his eyes and despair in his heart ! 

Paul's present engagements and avoca- 
tions did not admit of his availing himself 
very often of the pressing general invita- 
tion Lord Derwent gave him to i^ Alt amount 
House. 



16 ACQUITTED. 



Perhaps his visits were all the more 
valued because they were necessarily few 
and far between. But not only was old 
Pemberton very kind and very liberal, but 
he was very exacting and furiously 
irascible ! 

Young Barton was making a progress 
and showing an attention and perseverance 
that greatly interested Paul in his success, 
and made him resolve to do his utmost for 
so docile and grateful a pupil. 

Then too, the other advertisement he had 
answered had to his great surprise, after an 
interval of several weeks, secured him a 
very heavy literary job; not very well paid, 
but as he wished to be connected with the 
publishing world, and despised no honest 
means in his power of adding to his funds 
(for his father's sake), he did not feel jus- 
tified in refusing the work at the remune- 
ration offered to him. 

To accomplish it he had to rise at five 
and to work hard, not even stopping while 



ACQUITTED. 17 



he took his breakfast, until he was due at 
Mr. Cottrell's. 

Certainly there could not have been found 
m the whole metropolis a more self-denying, 
industrious, devoted youth than was Paul 
Penrvn at this time. 

He had one great object in view, one 
noble aim, one pious duty to perform, — the 
earning that thousand pounds on the re- 
placing of wliich, in the Three per Cents., 
his father's honour, character, and safety 
depended. 

Paul had inwardly vowed that he would 
■do it, if it was to be done ! 

But to do it, he knew that he must 
•sacrifice to this one object all that is 
most engaging and enthralling to the heart 
of youth ! 

Love — and he loved Mary with all his 
fervent, honest, young heart — love would 
have led him every evening away from the 
extra labour he had imposed upon himself, 
to the scenes where he was so warmly 

VOL. III. 2 



18 ACQUITTED. 



welcomed by poor suffering Jasper, and 
where Mary's smile and Mary's voice made 
an Eden of the heart. 

Sometimes Pleasure, the Syren, tried hard 
to tempt him ; he loved music, he delighted 
in the drama, he was fond of pictures, yet 
he never spent sixjDence of the money he 
had silently and solemnly consecrated to 
his great and noble object on any pleasure 
or indulgence. 

No dainties could tempt him, no fatigues 
induce him to spend a shilling, or give in 
in any way, while by denying himself and 
working on he could add to his fund, and 
thus, toiling so hard, and living with an 
economy so watchful and so strict, hi& 
hoard was fast becoming considerable. 

Paul was beginning now to ponder on the 
safest method of disposing of it, for at this 
time he was not the only lodger at Mrs. 
Collins's. 

Quite recently she had let a room on the 
same floor with his, and which indeed at 



ACQUITTED. 1^ 



one time had communicated with his apart- 
ment by a door, now kept locked, to an 
artisan of a very sinister expression of 
countenance, and about whom she knew 
nothing, but that a neighbour of hers, not 
having a room to let to him herself, had 
recommended him to her. 

Paul had never had a good view of this 
man's face, for he was suffering from tooth- 
ache — at least, so he told Mrs. Collins — 
and in consequence his head and jaw were 
bound up. 

Mrs. Collins had told Paul that she 
did not exactly like his ways and 
looks. 

He professed to be an artisan, yet he 
did not rise early or seem to have 
any regular work; and he sometimes 
stayed out all night and lay in bed all 
day. 

^ * TpT 7p 

The time for Jasper and his party to 
go abroad was drawing near, and Jasper 



20 ACQUITTED. 



was constantly urging his father to pro- 
pose to Paul to accompany them, and 
he entreated Lord Derwent to fix the 
remuneration he offered at a sum which 
would atone to Paul for all he must 
give up in leaving the country. 

Paul had told Jasper and Mary Lynn 
that he had a great object in view in 
raising a certain sum by a certain time, 
and he had amused them with an ac- 
count of his various employments, and 
manifold means of raising the wind. 

Mary had no doubt that Paul's object 
was to secure a sum wherewith to go 
to Oxford to compete for an open scholar- 
ship, and she impressed Jasper with the 
same notion. 

Jasper, having conveyed this know- 
ledge to his father, the latter felt that if he 
did ask Paul to join their party as com- 
panion-tutor to his son, he must remunerate 
him handsomely, and just at this time it was 
not convenient to Lord Derwent to do this. 



ACQUITTED. 21 



Jasper's illness had already been a very 
great expense ; but that was not the 
chief cause of Lord Derwent's embarrass- 
ment. 

He had lost heavily on the turf, and his 
father, now very old and infirm, had be- 
come singularly fond of that money which, 
in the nature of things, he could not much 
longer enjoy. 

Byron wittily said — 

" So for a good old gentlemanly vice, 
I think I must take up with avarice." 

Lord Altamount had taken up with 
avarice, and at a time when his doing so 
was singularly inconvenient to Lord Der- 
went. 

The Earl, who had hitherto been a 
liberal man, had insisted on knowing the 
why and the wherefore before he gave a 
cheque for any amount, however small ; 
and he actually took a great deal of trouble 
to calculate the expenses of the " winter in 



22 ACQUITTED. 



the South," and tlie fares of all who were 
to be of the party. 

When Lord Derwent, who had hitherto 
found his father lavish where Jasper, the 
hope and heir of all his honours, was con- 
cerned, spoke of engaging Paul Penryn to 
go with his son as companion-tutor, at a 
handsome rate of remuneration, the old 
Earl positively refused to furnish the ne- 
cessary sum for an expense which he 
declared v/ould be rather injurious than 
beneficial to Jasper. 

'' Don't let him trouble himself with 
Latin and Greek," said the old Earl; ''if 
he had not studied so hard, he'd never 
have fallen into ill-health. I set my face 
against companion-tutors and studies of all 
kinds. Mary Lynn is enough to amuse 
him, and as the children are to go, of course 
she and Miss Osgood must be of the party, 
and that will be ruinous enough without 
adding young Penryn to the party." 



ACQUITTED. 23 



One day about three weeks after his 
famous party, while Fisk was perched on 
his high stool at Cottrell's, in very low 
spirits, two beetle-browed, bull-necked fel- 
lows, in white hats, coloured chokers, and 
with thick knobbed sticks, entered the 
office. 

Their small pig- eyes glistened with 
triumph, and their bottle-noses, of a purple 
tint, harmonized well with their bloated 
complexions and with the strong odour of 
ruin and tobacco with which they tainted 
the air. 

Fisk, when he saw them, became lividly 
pale, and seemed almost to collapse. 

In that state they arrested him and 
carried him off between them to Whitecross- 
street Prison at the suit of his landlady, 
Barbara Blore. A fortnight before he had 
been served with a writ, and as he had 
done nothing in the matter, it had gone on 
to judgment and incarceration. 

^' He richl}^ deserves it," said Mr. Beagle. 



24. ACQUITTED. 



" A fool, who knows nothing of horses, 
spending his substance in backing and bet- 
ting with those humbugging fellows, Lob- 
ster and Spark." 

" I'm not sorry they've nabbed him,"' 
said Brymer, '' for a fellow so ' down in the 
mouth' is no end of a bore; and then he'& 
always trying to borrow; I hate a chap 
who's always asking you for half-a-crown, 
or a shilling, or a sixpence even." 

" He'll have a fine time of it," said one 
of the junior clerks, "if he hasn't a feu- 
bob in his pocket. He'll be rather roughly 
handled in quod, and serve him right too. 
He's held his head high enough here; a 
fcAV months in limbo will take the starch 
out of him." 

" Gentlemen," said Paul, '' I wonder to- 
hear you^ who all prided yourselves on 
being Fisk's bosom-friends, and who so 
courted him before this 'rub in his for- 
tunes,' now so ready to 'sink him.' I can- 
not believe you can be so mean as to 



ACQUITTED. 25 



forsake a friend because he's down in the 
world. Let's do as we would be done by. 
I vote we subscribe a fcAv shillings each, for 
though I have no personal experience of 
such matters, I have read about them, and I 
believe that a few shillings in hand greatly 
alleviate to the debtor the horrors of im- 
prisonment. Let us make up a pound 
between us, and if Brymer will come with 
me, we'll go and see the poor fellow directly 
one o'clock strikes. Let's see, we are five ; 
I'll trouble you for four shillings each — 
there's my subscription to begin with !" 

For very shame the other clerks (Fisk's 
bosom friends) could not hold back, but 
they gave grudgingly, and looked very 
glum. 

Paul took no notice of this; he despised 
them for their narrow hearts and mean 
natures ; and as soon as one o'clock struck 
he said, '' Now, Mr. Brymer, if you please 
we'll go at once to Whitecross Street, to see 
poor Fisk." 



■26 ACQUITTED. 



'' But," said Brymer, '' my dinner will be 
spoiled, risk and I had ordered a roasted 
bullock's heart, stuffed, and with currant 
jelly and gravy, and if heart's not eaten 
hot, it's worth nothing. Who's to pay for 
Fisk's share now, I wonder?" 

" We'll divide the cost between us, and 
take it to him in a hot basin," said Paul. 
*' I have no doubt the people at the chop- 
house where you and he always dine, 
will lend all that is needful." 

With a very bad grace Brymer com- 
plied. He had no sentiment in real life, 
but a great deal of maudlin sentimentality, 
which he used up in his poems. 

*' Well, if it must be done," he said, " let's 
get it over. I'm very faint and hungry 
myself, and I shan't have time to get 
my own dinner at all if we don't push 
along." 

The young lady at the chop-house put 
the better half of the bullock's heart, with 
abundance of gravy, jelly, stuffing, and a 



ACQUITTED. 27 



roasted potato, into a hot tin with a cover. 
She was a great admirer of the " horsey" 
Fisk, and she already knew that he had 
*^ come to grief," for the bailiffs " used" 
her employer's house, and were at that 
moment devourins^ their half-cooked steaks 
and onions, and drinking their stout. 

She promised to keep the other half of 
the heart, hot for Brymer, and sent Fisk a 
slice of plum pudding extra and gratis, 
with her love. 

They found poor Fisk in a state of the 
greatest dejection, faint with hunger, with- 
out a penny in his pockets, and already 
shunned and despised for having been 
unable to stand treat, and, in consequence, 
in quarantine — or, as they had it, sent to 
Coventry. 

A good dinner, and a pound in his pocket, 
made him feel (as he said) quite " like 
somebody else;'' and he was in high favour 
with those of the same ward directly 
he announced his readiness to " stand treat." 



28 ACQUITTED. 



As Paul and Brymer liad to dine and 
get back to Cottrell's by three, they could 
not prolong their stay; but they left Fisk 
in high spirits, well fed, and surrounded 
hy friends^ and they had found him very 
dejected, faint with hunger, and the object 
of general derision and disgust. 

Paul had only five minutes for his own 
dinner, but he resolved to make up for his 
very short time and short commons at 
tea. 

Brymer almost cried with vexation. 

Miss Pounce had forgotten to keep the 
heart hot, and when he complained about it, 
she told him pertly, " that cold heart would 
suit him best, as it was most like his own, for 
he must be cold-hearted indeed who could 
care so much about his own dinner when 
his best friend was in such trouble." 



ACQUITTED. 29 



CHAPTER III. 

He preferred in his heart the least ringlet that curled 
Down her beautiful neck, to the throne of the world." 

Moore 



HEN Paul returned to his lodgings 
that evening he found a note from 
Mary Lynn, begging him, if pos- 
sible, to call at Altamount House in the 




evenmo;. 



She said Lord Derwent had ^been sent 
for, as the Earl of Altamount was very 
ill. 

He had had some kind of fit, and Lord 
Derwent had started at once for Pencombe. 

She added, that by a letter from the 
"veiled Lady,'^ who corresponded with her 
regularly, she found it was reported that 
the Earl was in o;reat danger. 

Mary added, that she feared if Lord 



30 ACQUITTED. 



Denvent felt it incumbent on liim to stay 
mth his father the Earl, Lady Derwent 
would come up to town, to be with Jasper, 
and in that case, she added, she feared her 
position would be quite untenable. 

Poor Jasper, she said, had been a 
good deal agitated by the news of his 
grandfather's illness, and, on the whole, 
things looked so dark and threatening 
that she pined for the support and 
comfort of a quiet evening with a true 
friend. 

Paul could not find it in his heart ta 
neglect this appeal ; although, in order to 
comply with Mary's request, he had to 
disappoint that irascible old gentleman ^ 
Mr. Hamilton Pemberton. 

But not only Mary's entreaty went ta 
his heart, but poor Jasj)er had added a 
few rather desponding lines, asking Paul, 
as a personal favour to one who might not 
trouble him often or long, to come to 
Altamount House as soon as possible; 



ACQUITTED. 31 



and adding, he was resolved not to sit 
down to dinner until Paul had arrived. 

Thus urged, Paul sent an excuse to Mr. 
Pemberton, and with feet winged by love 
arrived at Altamount House at a quarter 
to seven. 

Although, to please Jasper, Lord 
Derwent was always very kind and 
courteous to Paul Penryn, yet Paul always 
enjoyed his visits to Grosvenor Square 
most when his lordship was absent. Lord 
Derwent was a bad man, and though 
Paul was not aware of this fact, yet there 
was something in the voice, the expression, 
and the conversation of Jasper's father 
which prevented Paul's liking him. 

And yet he had only seen him under his 
best and most humane aspect. 

The one redeeming point of this dark, 
selfish, cruel character was his devoted love 
for his son ; and though this love was not 
without alloy, for he saw in Jasper not only 
the loved child of his heart, but the heir of 



32 ACQUITTED. 



the House of Altamount, without whom he 
believed that a cousin he loathed would, at 
his own decease, be the Earl, his anxiety 
about, and his tenderness for his son, formed 
the bright side of his very dark nature. 

Paul knew of no other, and yet he could 
not like this man. 

He perceived that a general sense of 
relief pervaded the little circle at Alta- 
mount House in the absence of Lord 
Derwent. 

The little girls, instead of sitting silent 
and prim, and looking scared and dull, 
were sporting like fairies about the rooms, 
the stairs, and the hall. 

Mary looked brighter and more cheerful 
than usual, and even Jasper, though he 
loved his father tenderly, talked more 
freely, and laughed more frequently now 
that those deep-set eyes with their watchful 
and somewhat crafty expression, and that 
cold and rather haughty face, were with- 
drawn. 



ACQUITTED. 33 



Jasper, Mary, and Paul spent a very 
pleasant evening, talking over the past and 
mapping out that future Avhich one of them 
at least, to more experienced eyes, would 
have seemed little likely to enjoy. 

They played a round game to amuse the 
little girls, who ventured to laugh and talk 
•as they had never done in their fathers 
presence ; and Paul went away a little later 
than usual, having given a promise to spend 
with Jasper and ]\Iary every hour he could 
snatch from the great object of his life 
without in any way affecting his work's 
aim. 

Paul, as we have said, had a genius for 
poetry and a talent for composition — and 
he had sent many contributions in prose 
and verse to the high class magazines, 
and even to the cheap periodicals of the 
day. 

Brilliantly endowed by nature with ima- 
gination, comparison, and wit, and being, 
as he was for his age, remarkably well 

VOL. ITI. 3 



ACQUITTED. 



read, and a good classic and a modem 
linguist of merit, Paul felt and knew that 
the poems, tales, and essays which he sent 
to the different editors of the high class and 
popular periodicals, were very much above 
the average contributions to those publica- 
tions, but as yet lie had met with no appre- 
ciation, no encouragement, no success of 
any kind. 

On one occasion Paul, not having kept a 
copy of a tale which he had written with 
great care, and in the composition of which 
he had felt so much inspired that he had 
had no doubt of its most thorough 
success, called, by the advice of Mr. 
Pemberton, at the office of the Cheap- 
side. 

A new clerk, mistaking him for one of 
the young knights of the paste-pot and 
scissors, who were employed at a very low 
rate to compile, adapt, absorb, translate, 
and remodel, ushered Paul into the pre- 
sence of the ''Conductor.'' 



ACQUITTED. 35 



The little office was crowded with young 
fellows, hollow-eyed, gaunt, and out at 
elbows, who were receiving their orders 
from him whom Paul, at a glance, decided 
to be not only a " conductor '^ but a " cad." 

It was '^make up day," and the Con- 
ductor had several French novels and 
feuilletons before him, and was instruct- 
ing a shadowy young man how he Avas 
to take a chapter from this work, a 
few pages from that, and a few more 
from a third, alter the names, places, and 
dates, and work up the whole into an 
"original tale." 

Of course it had to be translated, and 
that would be a work of some time, and the 
poor hack, who had a bad cough and a 
hectic flush on his hollow cheek, must live 
en attendant. 

The Conductor was very fat, fair, and 
forty, with good, regular features, and a 
very bad expression, very gentle and yet 
very bitter. 

3—2 



36 ACQUITTED. 



" Sir," said the poor hack, very meekly 
and nervously, " I quite understand what 
you want done ! I'll set about it at once, 
sir. It will make about eight pages of the 
Cheapside^ sir, that will be tea shillings, sir, 
at the rate you propose; will you kindly 
advance me five shillings, sir, I am quite 
aground." 

" By no manner of means, my dear sir !'* 
said the Conductor, with his blandest smile. 
*^ There are two kinds of paymasters, each 
equally to be eschewed — he who is before- 
hand with his pay, and he who is behind- 
hand ! You would work without the elixir 
of hope, my dear sir, were I to comply with 
your request." 

" If I get it done and bring it to-morrow, 
will you pay me then, sir?" 

"Decidedly not, my dear sir! I cannot 
offer you an inducement to slur and scamp 
your work. When the copy has appeared 
in print, and been published to the world, 
then comes *pay day' for the contributors 



ACQUITTED. 37 



— then, (and with a fat white hand, he took 
up a cheque book) then, from this once bulky 
volume, now growing so fast ' fine by 
degrees and beautifully less,' I shall have 
the pleasure of handing you a cheque." 

He sipped a cup of coffee between each 
sentence, v/hich he spoke in an oily, rounded 
voice, and very deliberately raising his 
light eyebrows and smiling a bitter smile 
the while. 

For a moment the poor hard-ridden hack 
was tempted to throw the Conductor to the 
ground. 

The colour deepened on the skin of his 
sharp cheek-bones — flesh there was none; 
his eyes flashed, his breast heaved, his 
breath came thick. He felt sorely tempted 
to throw the French novels and newspapers 
at the laro'e head Avith a rather narrow 

o 

brow, and yet fidl development at the back, 
and on which the thin light hair was care- 
fully parted and sleekly brushed, oiled, and 
scented. 



38 ACQUITTED. 



The Conductor, still sipping liis coffee 
and crunching a biscuit, took no more 
notice of the poor hack. 

He had beckoned to another of that 
" Black Band." 

The poor invalid hack, despair in his 
heart, but remembering the old adage, 
^^ Second thoughts are best," made his 
escape, afraid of being again tempted to 
rebel, and saying to himself, '' I have no 
other opening, no other hope !" — and re- 
solving to try to borrow half-a-crown of a 
good-humoured little printer's devil of 
the establishment, who was much better 
paid than himself, and who, he felt sure, 
would advance himtwo-and-sixpence of the 
ten shillings to be paid that day fort- 
night. 

The Conductor's false, pale blue eyes had 
not yet lighted on Paul. There were 
several hacks between our. hero and the 
€di tor's table. 

To the third who went up the Conductor 



ACQUITTED. 39 



said, taking a MS. out of his table- 
drawer — 

'' Now, sir, I have a little job for you 
here, which will require all your tact and 
address; but if you do it neatly I will give 
you a cheque for two guineas. This is a 
tale by your humble servant, written in 
rash, impassioned youth, and alluding to 
people, characters, and circumstances which 
the more mature judgment of manhood, ad- 
vises me to veil! Will you then change 
the scene, the names, the date, write a new 
opening chapter, and unsex the hero and 
heroine, — with a little management the veil 
will be impenetrable I" 

'^ Not quite, Mr. Conductor," said Paul 
Penryn, stepping forward. 

He had recognised his own MS. in that 
which was held out in tliat fat white hand 
— and on the title-page (in his own hand) he 
saw, " Young Blair ; or. The Battle of 
Life." 

" What have you to say on the subject^ 



40 ACQriTTEB. 



iny dear sir?" asked the Conductor, just a 
little startled out of liis insolent self-posses- 
sion — as Avas evidenced by his rounding his 
light eyes, and by a little tinge of colour 
on his pale face. 

" Simply that / am the author of that 
tale,'' said Paul, firmly, " and that I object 
to all the liberties you propose to take with 
it!" 

The Conductor took it up, pretended to 
examine it, and said — 

" My dear sir ! I thank you for prevent- 
ing the commission of a serious blunder! 
I am so near-sighted ! Slopp ! my good 
fellow, this is not the tale I meant to give 
you ! How this one came into my drawer 
I cannot conceive !" 

He then pretended to rummage for what 
he knew was not there, nor anywhere else ; 
and of course, finding nothing, he said, 
'^ It must be in my desk at home. Slopp — 
I'll bring it up to-morrow or next day. 
And so, this is yours, Mr. ?" 



ACQUITTED. 41 



"Penryn," said Paul— '' Paul Penryn !" 

" A very good 7iom de plume.^'' said the 
unabashed Conductor; "you have called 
in ' apt alliteration's artful aid,' and the 
' Pen' is very appropriate to those who live 
by that little implement. Are you one of 
that fraternity?" 

"Not exactly; but I wish to belong to 
it." 

'• And you thought to make your dehut 
in Cheapside V 

" I thought that tale might suit your 
pages." 

" I am always unwilling to dash the fiery 
hopes of youth," said the Conductor. 
" Many of our rising — nay, of our risen — 
geniuses owe their present footing to my 
helping hand! My dear sir! 1 am the 
author's friend ! No one who has ever en- 
listed under my banner has proved a 
deserter ! I have never, in all my career as 
an employer, lost an author — I do not 
think I have ever lost a printer. I am half 



42 ACQUITTED. 



inclined to give *you the ' open sesame' of 
the Cheapside ! But do not forget that 
the writings of unknown aspirants are 
worth less than nothing to us 1 My dear 
sir, may I trouble you to step this way." 

Paul followed the portly humbug into an 
adjoining room. It was half full of MSS. 
of every variety of size and shape. Many 
of them had not been opened. 

" Behold the fate of most manuscripts," 
said the Conductor, '' and thank your lucky 
stars that yours is not among them.'' 

^' Could they not be returned to the 
writers ?" asked Paul. 

" Could I not keep half-a-dozen extra 
clerks for that purpose?" sneered the Con- 
ductor. " No, sir, we cannot guarantee 
the return of rejected contributions. As 
they are voluntarily sent to us, we can only 
advise authors to keep copies !" 

^' That involves double work," said Paul. 

" Practice, excellent practice — much 
wanted by all would-be authors !" 



ACQUITTED. 43 



" But you mean to use some of them, I 
presume, else why is that gentleman looking 
over and selecting some of those old and 
dusty ones." 

" Idle curiosity on his part — simply 
that." 

But he hurried Paul, who had inquired 
" too curiously," back to his oflSce. 

'' In confidence let me tell you," said the 
Conductor, " I have at my country-seat, 
besides what you have just seen, barns full of 
rejected MSS. I shall sell them as waste 
paper, and send whatever they fetch to 
* The Poor Authors' Burial Fund,' a charity 
I have myself started, and which supplies a 
gi^ave want." He laid a stress on the 
word c/i^ave, to give point to the odious pun. 
'- However, to business, young sir. No one 
can live upon love (not even the love of 
the Nine Old Maids), so if you like to take 
a guinea for this experiment I'll give you a 
cheque for the amount." 

He took up his cheque-book with a sort 



44 ACQUITTED. 



of dignified tenderness and an air of de- 
voted self-sacrifice, and smiled benignly as 
he said — 

" You see, young sir, by the state of this 
book, I am no niggard taskmaster — I delight 
in paying as much as most Conductors do in 
hoarding. I may say ' my young soul ivas 
sacrificed to books,' but principally to my 
cheque books. If," he added, while tears of 
plausibility filled his light eyes — " If I never 
see my money again, at least I shall have 
fed the lamp of youthful Ambition with the 
oil of Hope — but we will trust there may 
be the germs of future greatness in that little 
effort. And with that hope I will venture 
to request you to send in another story of 
the same length, and on the same terms.'' 

Very deliberately and very pompously 
the Conductor wrote a cheque for 1/. Is, — 
'^ Payable to Mr. Paul Penryn, or hearer ^ 

He handed to Paul the delicate lilac strip 
of paper and a lithographed form of receipt 
to sign (including copyright). 



ACQUITTED. 



Paul Avas enclianted — a guinea in esse 
and another in 2yos-9e. 

He thought the Conductor the most 
gentlemanly, liberal creature in the world. 

He forgot the poor hack Avhom he had so 
pitied. 

He forgot all he had heard from Mr. 
Pemberton of the origin and history, the 
tricks and exactions — the humbug, blar- 
ney, and double-dealing of the Conductor 
of the Cheapside. 

" Let us speak of a man as we find himT' 
he said to himself, as he left the office with 
the cheque in his pocket and hope in his 
heart. 

The Conductor leant back in his easy- 
chair, sipped his coffee, and said to himself 
— '' I think we've got out of that scrape 
with credit and profit ! The young fellow 
has genius and enthusiasm ! We will work 
him — work him up, as the slaveowners do 
their niggers!" 

Then a ray of anger shot from his light 



46 ACQUITTED. 



phosphoric eyes, and a flush came over 
his handsome, massive, and Is'ero-hke 
face! 

He went to his voice-conductor and called 
the clerk. 

The man came. 

'^ Was it you who admitted Mr. Penryn, 
a stranger, on 'Make-up day,' without 
asking my permission, Markham?" he said. 

'' I thought, sir," said Markham, trem- 
bhng, " he was one of the contributors !" 

" The next time you take upon yourself 
to tJwik, Mr. Markham, instead of obeying 
my orders, I shall have the pleasure of re- 
leasing you from your attendance here !" 

Markham thought of his wife and four 
little ones, apologized and retired, and the 
conductor went on with the '' make-up." 



ACQUITTED. 47 




CHAPTER IV. 

" Alive by miracle, or what is next, 
Alive by Mead." 

Pope. 

lORD DERWENT returned to town, 
unexpectedly. 

The old Earl, his father, was a 

little better, and Dr. H , who had 

kindly promised to see Jasper at once, and 
let his father know exactly how he was, 
had been obliged in candour to own that 
his patient was, if anything, rather worse ! 

Dr. H meant exactly what he said, 

in fact he always did, but Lord Derwent, 
who had been accustomed to flattering 
physicians, fancied that had not Jasper 

been very much worse, Dr. H would 

have made him out decidedly better. 

Under this impression, Lord Derwent 



48 ACQUITTED. 



could not rest, and he started for town, 
having promised his wife, Lady Derwent, 
to return to her on the third day, unless 
Jasper were too ill to admit of his leaving 
him. 

Lord Derw^ent's unexpected return put a 
stop to many little pleasurable arrange- 
ments made by Mary and Jasper, and in 
w^hich they had hoped to have been able to 
include Paul Penryn. 

Lord Derwent ^vas more irritable, 
gloomy, and taciturn than ever. 

His anxiety about his son was intense, 
and the constant watch he kept over 
everything Jasper ate, drank, said, or did 
Avould have exasperated any less patient 
and aiFectionate son. 

Lord Derwent had other causes of alarm 
and annoyance besides poor Jasper's pre- 
carious state. 

He had seen the medical attendant of 
the Earl, his father, and had questioned 
him closely and seriously. 



ACQUITTED. 49 



The opinion of Mr. Elliot, wlio saw the 
Earl daily, was, that he could not live three 
months longer. 

Lord Derwent was extremely anxious 
to find Dan Devrill, and to consult with 
him. 

Dan had ascertained beyond a doubt 
that Minna — in reality Lady Derwent — 
the Vicar's daughter, and indisputably Lord 
Derwent's lawful wife, was livini]: in 
disguise, and under a feigned name at her 
father's Vicarage. 

This now undoubted fact he had con- 
veyed by letter to Lord Derwent. 

Lord Derwent remembering the solemn 
oath he had induced Minna to take, never 
to reveal her private marriage during the 
life of his father, and aware that she had 
inherited the most chivalrous sense of 
honour and love of truth from her father, 
fully understood that her silence and en- 
durance would last as long as tlie old Earl 
lived, but that in justice to her own fair 

VOL. III. 4 



50 ACQUITTED. 



fame, to lier father, and to the spotless 
name of Trelawny, she would make both 
her existence and her marriage public 
directly Lord Altamount's decease released 
her from her oath. 

" If my father should die suddenly," 
said Lord Derwent to himself, " Minna can 
prove herself my wife, and Jasper ille- 
o^itimate! I cannot rest while so terrible 
a possibility hangs over me ! I will do no 
murder, I will not listen to that scoundrel, 
Dan Devrill, who says he will undertake 
that she shall never trouble me or disgrace 
my son, if I will but say the word. Xo ! 
I will not have her blood upon my soul! 
Poor wretch! I have wronged and injured 
her enough already; but I will have her 
removed from Pencombe, and confined for 
life, where she never can be discovered, 
yet, where she shall have every comfort! 
Rotterdam is the place, and Yaneck's 
private madhouse shall be her abode till 
her death."' 



ACQUITTED. 51 



Vaneck was a creature of Lord Derwent's. 

He was aDutcliman who had been Lord 
Derwent's valet, adviser, confidant — or 
rather accomplice — and was at one time 
his master's master, but having been de- 
tected in the theft of a fifty pound note, 
he became Lord Derwent's slave. 

When his fiither, who kept a private 
madhouse near Rotterdam, died, Vaneck 
left Lord Derwent and succeeded to his 
father as proprietor of the " Garden of 
Eden," as the lunatic asylum was called. 
Vaneck was glad to escape from the eye 
that had detected his guilt, but as his 
asylum was on a grand scale, and devoted 
to lunatics of wealth and rank only, he 
made good use of his long residence in 
England, and extensive connexion with the 
valets of noble families in Great Britain 
and L'eland, to obtain patients — many of 
them not insane, but who for one reason or 
another were in the way of those who pre- 
ferred the greater cruelty of lifelong in- 

4—2 



UNIVERSITY OF ILU'^^'^ 



ACQUITTED. 



carceration in a madhouse for tlieir victims 
to any deed of violence that might bring 
themselves to the gallows ! Nothing could 
exceed the security of this prison, the 
watchfulness of Yaneck and his myrmi- 
dons. Xo patient had ever escaped from 
the " Garden of Eden." And yet it was 
only in cases of raving madness that corpo- 
real chastisement or coercion was resorted 
to. The building was in itself a strong 
fortress, surrounded by a moat, only to be 
passed by a drawbridge. 

Every elegance and comfort of life 
abounded at the "Garden of Eden." The 
house was very large and elegantly 
furnished. 

The grounds were beautiful, and the 
trees, shrubs, flowers, lawn, and arbours 
were unrivalled. 

Books, pictures, musical instruments, 
and indoor amusements abounded. 

Nothing was wanting but liberty and 
dear friends 1 



ACQUITTED. 



Lord Derwent, whose conscience had 
grown rather more sensitive since he had 
associated so much with a youth of such 
purity of heart and piety of mind as 
Jasper, said to himself, " It cannot be a 
crime to confine for life in a home so re- 
plete with luxury and comfort, one, who, 
if at large, when my father dies, will 
disgrace and ruin my son ! I was inno- 
cent, because ignorant of Minna's existence 
when I married Jasper's mother. Were 
she alone concerned I would acknowledge 
Minna, were it only to humble and punish 
her! But with Jasper's position, present 
and future at stake, I cannot hesitate a 
moment. Dan Devrill tells me Minna is 
very fond of sailing, and sometimes hires 
a boat belonging to a friend of his, and 
sails alone at dawn, or by moonlight to 
Rockness, to the Robbers Cave, and other 
places. He wants to avail himself of 
this custom of hers, to supply his pal's 
place and sink the boat, and Minna in it, 



54 ACQUITTED. 



but I will have him manage to convey her 
to Eotterdam, and to the ' Garden of 
Eden.' Once under Yaneck's charge, he 
may sink the boat and spread the report 
that she was drowned ! Her father can- 
not know of her private marriage, for her 
vow bound her to reveal it to no one. 
Minna ought to be handed over to Yaneck 
before my father dies. The sooner the 
better, and if it is all done while I am 
here, no suspicion can light upon me I 
But I must confer with that scoundrel, 
Devrill, and yet I cannot leave Jasper 
again just yet. He is certainly not quite 
so well. No one can watch over him as I 
can. 

¥,i ^ ^ ^ 

One moonlight evening Paul, who had 
been to King-ston on business for Mr. Cot- 
trell, returned by a steamboat and landed 
at Paul's Wharf. As he hurried along the 
passages, so numerous, dark, and intricate, 
between the pier and the streets — a thin 



ACQUITTED. 



line of moonlight was bordering on either 
side the darkest shadow — he thought what 
a number of crimes might be committed, 
what plots concocted, what rendezvous 
held, in that weird place, so lonely and 
desolate, though so close to the greatest 
thoroughfare in the world. 

As these fancies passed through his 
brain, he came suddenly on two men in 
earnest conversation in a dark recess. 

They were about to part as he passed 
them, and the moon coming at that moment 
from behind a cloud, Paul recoanised 
the tall stately form and stony Grecian 
profile of Lord Derwent, and the slouched 
hat, muffler, rough jacket, old corduroys, 
and coarse highlows of his fellow lodger. 

He had never seen this man's full face, 
but he had seen his profile, the most re- 
markable feature of which was a broken 
nose of magenta hue. The man was also 
remarkable for his hair, which was sino:u- 
larly black, fine, and curly, and which he 



56 ACQUITTED. 



wore, as sailors often do, in a quantity of 
small corkscrew curls hanging round his 
ears and on the collar of his coat. 

Paul felt curious to know what Lord 
D^rwent could have to say to such a wild, 
disreputable-looking rough as his fellow- 
lodger, but of his lordship's identity Paul 
had no doubt. 

It had often struck him, when he had 
caught a glimpse of his fellow-lodger, that 
he had seen such a form before, but he 
could not remember where. 

At any rate, he had a general impression 
unfavourable to the man, and he often 
asked Mrs. Collins when she expected him 
to leave her house. 

* * ^ * « 

The next day Paul dined at Lord Der- 
went's. 

To amuse the children, his lordship being 
out, a round game was proposed. 

Paul, with one of the little girls as his 
partner, won the pool. 



ACQUITTED. o7 



His share was six shillings. 

He hurried, as soon as he got home, to 
the closet where he kept the box containing 
his hard-earned savings, to add his winnings 
to the hoard. 

The lock had been picked, the door 
forced open. 

Horror of horrors — the box was gone I 



58 ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER Y. 

" I'll not believe it." 

Shakspeare. 

HEN first he discovered his loss, 
Paul stood for some time cold, j^ale, 
and motionless. 

For a moment he felt as if he were going 
to die, or to faint — the sensation to the in- 
experienced is much the same — and Paul, 
strong and healthy, had never fainted, nor 
had he ever seen any one else in a swoon. 

He had been present, it is true, when 
Fisk sank down all but insensible at sight 
of the bailiffs who came to carry him 
away ! 

To understand the intensity of Paul's 
emotion, his alarm, and his despair, the 
reader must bear in mind that his ever- 



AC QUIT TED. 59 



increasing hoard represented to his mind 
not a sum in notes, gold, and silver, but 
his fathers honour, health, safety, and 
happiness — the preservation of the ancient 
name of Penryn from a foul blot — a public 
disgrace, and the rescue of his cousin Ann 
from destitution. 

How Paul had worked, and saved, and 
denied himself — how he had risen early and 
retired to bed late — how he had counted 
over that hoard every time he had added 
to it — how he had rejoiced in the thought 
of the joy, the comfort it would be to his 
father's heart to know of its existence and 
its destination. 

Let us bear all this in mind, and then 
we shall not wonder that when the first 
stunning shock passed away, Paul staggered 
to a chair, hid his face in his hands, and 
burst into tears, while he moaned out the 
words, " My father ! my poor dear 
father !" 

But this mood did not last Xow^. 



m ACQUITTED. 



The thought that he had been robbed 
dashed across his mind, and at the same 
instant he associated that robbery with the 
down-looking *' rough" who occupied the 
adjoining room. 

" I will go to the police station at once," 
thought Paul as he dashed away his tears, 
and the hot flush of anger suffused his 
face. 

How had the thief got into his room? 

He had locked the door and left the kev 
as usual on a nail in Mrs. Collins's parlour. 

As he pondered on this, his eye fell on 
several pieces of broken glass on the floor, 
sparkling in the light of his candle, and 
which lay on the carpet beneath the door 
that communicated with the adjoining 
room. 

We have said that in this very old- 
fashioned house, as in almost all of the 
same date, tlie space between the top of the 
door and the ceiling was glazed. " That 
ruffian," thought Paul, ''must have broken 



ACQUITTED. 61 



the glass and let himself down into my 
room through the aperture." 

He rang the bell. 

The little maid came in. 

" Where is your mistress?'' said Paul. 

'' Missus is gone out to see a dying friend 
in the neighbourhood, but she left word 
she should be in very soon — she shouldn't 
be gone more than an hour, and she's been 
away two hours if not more, sir." 

The girl retired. 

Paul thought to himself, " Perhaps I had 
better wait a few minutes to consult with 
her what I had best do. She knows better 
than I do to whom I ought to apply. In 
the mean time Pll try to look into the next 
room." 

Paul pushed a cliest of drawers to the 
door, put a table on them, and a chair on 
the table. 

He clambered on to the chair, and by 
the light of the moon (which shone in at 
the window of the ruffian's room) he saw 



62 ACQUITTED. 



exactly the same pile of furniture as that 
on which he stood, at the other side of the 
door. 

" There is no doubt now," thought Paul 
to himself, " that the robber got in at the 
broken window and let himself down into 
my room, but how he got out again I can- 
not guess, unless the key of his room un- 
locks mine." 

He descended from the top of the pyramid 
he had raised, and examined the lock of the 
stranger's door. 

He tried his own key — it fitted the lock. 
Paul strode up and down his room in a 
fever of impatience and an agony of grief. 

" I may get the villain punished," he 
thought, '' but I shall never get my money 
back. I have heard that stolen money is 
hardly ever recovered. Oh, my dear, dear 
father! w^hy did I not put this money — 
yoicr money, for it was yours — my heart 
had destined, consecrated it to you — why 
did I not put it in the bank ? By my own 



ACQUITTED. 63 



carelessness and folly I have ruined my 
father. I will go to the police at once. I 
am losing precious time. Engrossed by 
the thought of Mary, by my selfish passion 
for her, I did not reflect on the danger of 
having so much money in the closet with 
such a rough, villanous-looking fellow in 
the next room. I dare say he has seen me 
count that money over and over again. By 
climbing up to that glazed partition he 
could count it too. I cannot wait any 
longer; I will consult the first policeman I 
meet; but I fear I have not a chance of re- 
coverino; a shillino;/' 

''AYhat a lovely night," he said to him- 
self, as he opened the window and looked 
into the now quiet street, spiritualized 
by the silver lights and ebon shadows. 
"How lovely the river looks! it reminds 
me of the sea at dear, dear Pen combe. To 
gaze on the sky and the river, who would 
think what crime and misery there is in 
this dreadful world! Oh, my poor dear 



64 ACQUITTED. 



father! in spite of all my efforts, all my 
prayers, all my labour, it is very likely that 
you will be held up to this bad world as one 
of the worst and meanest of its criminals — 
as a wretch who has robbed his orphan 
niece to enrich himself I must be up 
and doing, or I shall go mad !" 

Paul seized his hat, and rushed down 
stairs. As he opened the street door he 
met Mrs. Collins. 

She looked very pale, and her eyes were 
red with weeping. 

" Oh, sir," sobbed Mrs. Collins, " I could 
not come before. I was called away to the 
death-bed of my old friend, Mrs. Trevor. 
She came from my part of the country, and 
we were neighbours there and neighbours 
here, and now she's gone, poor dear ! And 
she died so unkimmon hard I couldn't get 
away before, else I did want to run home 
to tell you all about it, for fear you'd get 
a fright when you found it was gone." 

" It is worse than a fright to me, Mrs. 



ACQUITTED. 65 



Collins," said Paul. " I want you to tell 
me where the police-station is ; I must go 
there at once ; not that there is much chance 
of getting back money stolen in that way." 

'^ Lauk-a-daisy," said Mrs. Collins, ''I 
do think Pm losing my poor wits. Dearee 
me, I hav'n't told you that your strong box 
is safe in my keeping." 

'' What do you mean?'^ cried Paul — " in 
your keeping?'' 

" Yes, sir, I had my suspicions about that 
down-looking lodger of mine, for to-day, 
after you were gone out, I was tidying up 
a bit in your room, and suddenly chancing 
to look up at the glass window over the 
door, I see his bad face there. I made 
believe I'd seen nothing, and his face dis- 
appeared; but I thought to myself that 
means mischief, and so I very quietly re- 
moved your money-box, and locked your 
door on the outside. Well, sir, just 
before I was sent for to my poor dying 
friend I ran up to see if all was right, and 

VOL. in. 



66 ACQUITTED. 



then I found the glass over the door all 
smashed, and the closet forced open; but 
luckily no harm done, owing to my having 
carried your strong box into my room, and 
hid it up where no one but myself could 
ever find it. That villain of a fellow has 
taken French leave, sir, and has made off 
without paying me for the last week ; but 
I'm thankful to be rid of him at any rate. 
And now sir, I'll just go and get you your 
box ; and if 370u'li take my advice, you 11 
put your money into some savings'-bank or 
other, for it's never safe to keep money by 
one, either in town or country. It ain't 
safe in the country^ 'cause of the loneliness ; 
'taint safe in town, 'cause of the numbers of 
people about, and so many of 'em thieves 
and vagabones !" 

Paul, with a light heart, hurried back to 
his room, and soon his precious hoard was 
again in his own keeping — all the more 
precious in his eyes for the agony the idea 
of its loss had caused him. 



ACQUITTED. 67 




CHAPTER VI. 

' But YOU who seek to give and merit fame, 
And justly bear a critic's noble name, 
Be sure yourself and your own reach to know. 
How far your genius, taste, and learning go ; 
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet. 
And mark that point where sense and dulness meet." 

JPope. 

JE. PEMBERTON, who had a great 
appreciation of humour, was very 
much amused by Paul's lively ac- 
count of his adventures at the Cheajmde 
office, and his clever mimicry of that Oily 
Gammon "the Conductor." 

" Of course, my dear Paul," said Mr. 
Pemberton, " as you have undertaken to 
write another tale for that humbug, you 
must keep your word ; but it will never do 
to waste your time in that way. The pa}- 

5—2 



ACQUITTED. 



would be beggarly even for those poor 
fellows wlio only translate and compile, 
and whose whole stock-in-trade consists of 
a reading-ticket for the British Museum; 
but you, who have had a first-rate classical 
education, who have original genius and 
cultivated taste, you must, if you write at 
all, get paid as much per page as this skin- 
flint of a fellow would pay you per sheet — 
ay, and a good deal more too. I am inti- 
mate with the editors of two of our first- 
class reviews. I occasionally contribute to 
them myself Here is a work I had under- 
taken to review for the Q . You shall 

do it. I will call on the editor when it is 
done, and if it is done as I think you will 
do it, my dear boy, you Avill probably find 
a cheque for twenty-five pounds in the letter 
in which my learned friend will acknow- 
ledge the receipt of your reviews But now 
mind — -festina lente. Don't put it off, but 
don't hurry it. Remember Boileau's ad- 
vice — 



ACQUITTED. 69 



" Vincjtfois sur le metier remettez voire courage, 
Polissez-le, et le re^Jolissez ; 
Ajoutez quelqiiefois, et souvent effacez F' 

*' Oh, sir," said Paul, " I much fear that 
in your great kindness and partiality you 
overrate my poor powers. I have no idea 
how to set about writing a review." 

" Confound it, sir," replied the irascible 
Mr. Pemberton, his eyes flashing, his colour 
rising, and the veins on his bald head 
filling with hot blood ; " confound it, young- 
sir, don't you know that Dr. Samuel John- 
son, the Colossus of Literature, said — ' No- 
thing would ever be undertaken if every 
possible objection were first to be over- 
come.' Why, it's ten thousand times more 
difiScult to write the smallest readable tale, 
poem, or essay yourself, than to write the 
most elaborate critique of the work of 
another. Read through those numbers of 

the Q and the E . You'll soon 

get into the knack and swing of the thing. 
I've no patience with you, sir," added old 



70 ACQUITTED. 



Pemberton, growing furious at Paul's 
modest scruples and coy delay. " Promise 
me you'll go into that room and set about 
it at once, or Pll throw all the books out of 
the window." 

Paul, to quiet his irascible and zealous 
old friend, at once agreed to do his best. 

Old Pemberton, quite in his element, 
walked up and down the room in a fever of 
impatience, piled up Paul's table with 
books of reference, suggested this quota- 
tion, that line of argument, and drove Paul 
almost mad by asking him every five 
minutes how he was getting on, and de- 
siring him, as soon as he had Avritten his 
opening, to let him hear it. 

Luckily for Paul, in the midst of this 
martyrdom dinner was announced, and old 
Pemberton, much pleased with Paul for the 
earnestness with which he had set to work, 
and the rapidity with which his pen had 
dashed along several pages of foolscap, 
said — 



ACQUITTED, 



" You sliall read your opening to me 
after tea, Paul, my dear boy." 

They then went downstairs together to 
the dining-room. 



ACQ.UITTED. 



CHAPTER YII. 

" Where ever noblest things find vilest using !" 

Herlert. 




lORD DERWENT ^vas at this 
time in a very wretched state of 
mind. 
Passionately devoted as he was to a son 
who in his every word, thought, and action 
seemed to be half an angel already, Lord 
Derwent was, unconsciously to himself, led 
occasionally from the miry paths of Sin 
and worldliness to a brief sojourn in purer 
and holier scenes. 

His was now the position of some blind 
captive in a haunt of hideous peril and 
loathsome crime, to whom an occasional 
glimpse of light and sight are granted. 



ACQUITTED. 75 



As his beautiful and beloved boy spoke 
of heavenly things with that serenity which 
Faith alone can give, the thought of a future 
state, hitherto sedulously banished from 
Lord Derwent's mind, would present itself, 
and among the torturing ideas it sug- 
gested was this: '^ Such a spirit as Jasper's 
must be immortal, and destined to eternal 
happiness. Evil as mine is, I feel it can 
never die; what then if he is right, 
and the pure in heart alone shall see 
God; we shall be separated through all 
eternity!" 

And this idea of eternal separation from 
Jasper, had more effect on Lord Derwent's 
heart and mind than any other considera- 
tion connected with his own immor- 
tality. 

Paul was not mistaken in his conviction 
that it was Lord Derwent whom he had 
seen at Paul's Wharf in earnest conver- 
sation with his evil, down-looking fellow 
lodger. 



74 ACQUITTED. 



That lodger was, as tlie reader will have 
guessed, Dan Devrill! 

Some desperate acts of his, had compelled 
him to leave the neighbourhood of Pen- 
combe for a time, and like many other 
scoundrels he had found London to be his 
safest hiding-place. 

It was convenient to him also, as aiFord- 
ing him easy access to Lord Derwent, who 
could not bear to absent himself from his 
son for one unnecessary hour. 

Dan Devrill, who either believed or 
aiFected to believe tiiat the days of the old 
Earl of Altamount were numbered, was 
very urgent with Lord Derwent to give 
him carte hlanclie as to the disposal of 
Minna — by right Lady Derwent. 

"I knows Kit Koffin, my lord," he said, 
" and she often do hire Kit and his boat to 
take her out for a sail by moonlight, when 
the Yicar happens to dine out, or go from 
home for a few days. Now I can twist Kit 
round my little finger. In a week or two 



ACQUITTED. 



I can get back to the old place on the sly, 
and some day when she've appinted Kit to 
take her out for a sail, I'll get him to let me 
take his place. She'll take no notice — she 
don^t know me ; but onst I've got her out 
at sea I can either get her off to Rotterdam, 
as you planned out, last month, or — " and 
his voice sank into a whisper, " she can go 
a longer journey, and never bother you no 
more — nor come back to dis2:race Master 
Jasper, and make him curse the day as 
ever he was born to be scouted as a 
bastard !" , 

Lord Derwent grew deadly pale as he 
listened, but his purpose was not shaken ; 
he would not put such an eternal barrier 
between himself and his son as he felt 
murder would raise. 

" I will not be accessary to her death," 
he said; "but if you can ensure her safe 
arrival at Rotterdam, and can consign 
her to the care of Vaneck, at the ' Garden 
of Eden,' your reward shall be double what 



76 ACQUITTED. 



I once proposed to you when first you con- 
vinced me that she still survived. llovr- 
ever, I do not wish to do anything in 
haste. You need not stir in this matter 
until you hear from me agahi. 1 must run 
down to the Castle to see exactly in what 
state my father is, and on what I see there, 
will depend my future movements. AVhere 
shall I write to you — to Thames Street?" 

" No, my lord, I shan't hang out there 
any longer at present. The old cat looks 
queer, and it doesn't do for me to be too 
long at a time in one place; a line to this 
address will always find me, my lord ;" and 
Dan gave Lord Derwent a dirty scrap of 
paper. 

Soon after this, Lord Derwent threw 
himself into a Hansom cab, and dashed 
ofi* towards Grosvenor Square, and Dan 
said to himself, "Let me once get his wife, 
his true lawful wife, into my boat, and out 
at sea, and I'll do him a better turn than 
taking her to Rotterdam, and he'll think 



ACQUITTED. 



SO too when it's all over. I can't think 
what's come to my lord; he's not half the 
spirited chap he wor. He's all for half-and- 
half measures now, and they never did no 
good to no one, and never wont, but I'm a 
reg'lar go-a-head out-and-outer, 1 am, and 
I wont stand on no repairs if I once get my 
lady out at sea ! I owes her and her stiff- 
necked old dad manv a o-rudo-e, and I'll 
pay 'em all off, and no mistake, when once 
she's in my boat!" 

* * * * 

When Lord Derwent reached Altaniount 
House, Grosvenor Square, he found Jasper 
looking and feeling very ill, so much so 
indeed that he had felt quite unequal to 
sitting up, and had returned to his own 
apartment. 

A terrible thought crossed the mind of 
Lord Derwent, that perhaps there might be 
an All-seeing, Omnipotent, Omnipresent 
Being cognizant of his recent nefarious 
meeting with Dan Devrill, and able to 



78 ACQUITTED. 



punish him if he chose, by taking away 
his son, or increasing that beloved one's 
sufferings. 

'' This is all superstition, weakness, and 
folly," he said to himself " Even if Jasper 
is right, and an immortality of bliss or 
anguish awaits us all, is it likely a God of 
Justice would punish the son for his 
father's fault ! But Jasper is making an old 
woman of his father!" But still the lono^- 
slumbering conscience, too ready to nurse 
itself to sleep again, had been aroused ! 

Oh, how terrible is the waking of a 
guilty conscience that has slept for twenty 
years. How soon after it has once been 
aroused, it starts from its brief repose 
again, and what an undying worm, or 
rather adder, does it become! Into what 
dark recesses, full of forgotten crimes, 
sins, and shortcomings does that terrible 
inquisitor — an evil conscience — hold the 
newly kindled lamp of truth, and how care- 
fully — in spite of the lapse of years, and 



ACQUITTED. 7^ 



tide of time — memory has stored up every 
hideous relic of the guilty past ! 

* * * * 

To every eye but Lord Derwent's there 
^vas a change for the worse in poor 
Jasper ! 

His cough was more troublesome, his 
appetite very capricious, his beautiful eyes 
were brighter, his cheek — so thin and 
hollow — was alternately ghastly pale and 
brightly flushed. 

He was more and more gentle, kind, and 
heavenly in his conversation and his con- 
duct, and there was something inexpres- 
sibly touching, sublime, and poetical in his 
language. It was evident that his thoughts 
were always dwelling on the Future. 

That Future spread bright and fair before 
the pure-hearted, pious youth ; but, oh I 
how terrible a subject of contemplation 
was it to Lord Derwent ! 

Quite unconscious of this, and believing 
his father to be as good and religious as 



80 ACQUITTED. 



himself, Jasper would often ask liiin to 
read aloud to him such works as a true 
believer, conscious that his time on earth 
would not be long, would feel a deep in- 
terest in. 

Old Jeremy Taylor's " Holy Living and 
Dying," " Paley's Evidences," and even 
Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," were thus 
gently forced on the attention of Lord 
Derwent, who could not bear to refuse any 
request of Jasper's, and who thus learnt to 
believe and tremble, Avhile his young son 
only found in every new argument fresh 
food for hope. 

Jasper was by this time, alas ! much 
weaker. He now only came downstairs in 
time for dinner, and soon it fatigued him 
too much to sit up to the dinner-table. 
So he lay propped up by pillows on a sofa, 
and had a small table placed by his side, 
on which his meals were served. 

By degrees the fatigue of walking up and 
down stairs became too much for him. 



ACQUITTED. 81 



It brought on pains in his chest and 
severer fits of couo^hino;. 

Lord Derwent, to spare his beloved son 
this extra fatigue and suffering, would 
carry him up and down stairs. 

He would not trust this precious bur- 
then to any of the men-servants. Alas, 
poor Jasper! wasted as he was, was not 
very heavy. 

Lord Derwent's anxiety became intense. 

Dr. H 's opinion was far from favour- 
able; and in the midst of this intense 
anxiety about his son, Lord Derwent re- 
ceived a telegram from Altamount Castle, 
to say that the Earl (his father) had had 
another and severer fit, and that his imme- 
diate presence was required. 

On the day of the receipt of this telegram 
there was a little change for the better in 
Jasper's fluctuating symptoms, and he 
himself urged his father so earnestly to 
lose no time in setting off for Altamount 
Castle, and declared that he felt himself 

VOL. III. 6 



^2 ACQUITTED. 



SO very much better that Lord Derwent 
set oif. 

Before his departure he sent for Mary 
Lynn to his study, and made her promise 
to write to him morning and evening 
during his absence — to telegraph to him 

directly if Dr. H , who promised to see 

Jasper every day, saw any change for the 
worse — and in fact Lord Derwent wound 
up by saying— 

" I feel as if I were leaving my beloved 
boy with a devoted sister." 



ACQUITTED. 83 



CHAPTER VIII. . 

" Then wherefore tarry, Death, upon the wing, 
Since 'tis thro' thee that we can never die; 
Oh, blessed thought that robs thee of thy sting, 
And of the grave destroys the victory ! 

Oh, blessed thought that makes us still endure 
The angry tempests of this world of strife. 
Behold ! beyond the shadowy vale, the pure 
Translucent waters of Eternal Life ! 

Come then and take us where our loved ones are ; 
Oh lead us to them with thy gentle hand; 
And Faith, refulgent as the Morning Star, 
Guide thou our footsteps to the Promised Land !" 
William: Goedox Smythies : Golden Leisures. 

HEN Lord Derwent arrived at 
Altamount Castle he found the old 
Earl (his father) had rallied con- 
siderably, and was no longer in any 
immediate danger, 

6—2 




84 ACQ.UITTED. 



He knew his son, and expressed very 
great satisfaction and even joy at his unex- 
pected presence. He said he had many 
things of importance to discuss as soon as 
his head was a little clearer; and he held 
Derwent's hand, as the latter stood by his 
bedside, as if afraid that he would leave 
him again. 

Lord Derwent, finding his father so much 
better than he had anticipated, greatly re- 
gretted having left his son ; but fortunately 
Mary Lynn's accounts of Jasper were ver}' 
comforting. 

L'l that dreadful disease which almost 
always fixes on the loveliest, the dearest, 
and the best, there are fluctuations so in- 
comprehensible, so unaccountable, and 
which seem sent only to inspire hopes that 
render the ultimate despair more madden- 
ing! 

One of these strange fluctuations had 
taken place in Jaspers health since his 
father had left town. 



ACQUITTED. 85 



He had been able on a very fine day to 
drive out in the Park, and to walk a little 
in the sun. 

His appetite had been better, and he had 
written a few very encouraging and aifec- 
tionate lines to his father in Mary Lynn's 
evening despatch. 

Comforted and reassured by this good 
news, and finding great arrears of im- 
portant local business to attend to. Lord 
Derwent resolved to stay a few days at the 
castle. 

Jasper had begged him on no account to 
leave the Earl till he was out of danger; 
and Lord Derwent made arrangements for 
a day of business with the Earl's agent and 
steward, and planned a ride through the 
estate, which had long been unwatched by 
the master's eye. 

Lady Derwent was cold and sullen. 

She had long been brooding over her 
jealous hatred of Mary Lynn. 

She had written several times to Lord 



86 ACQUITTED. 



Derwent to beg him to send her permission 
and money to come to town. 

Lord Derwent, who hated her, was very 
unjust and tyrannical in his conduct towards 
her. He kept her almost without money ; 
and thoroughly believing that Mary Lynn's 
presence was Jasper's greatest comfort, and 
that his mother, by her conduct to Mary, 
would excite and irritate Jasper, and drive 
the gentle, devoted girl away from his side, 
had expressly forbidden her ladyship to 
leave the castle. 

" Dear Augusta," he had written to her 
from London, " we cannot both of us leave 
my father, and I will not leave Jasper unless 
my father were so much worse as to necessi- 
tate my doing so. You have often added 
greatly to our beloved son's sufferings by 
your jealousy and your insulting behaviour 
to his gentle and devoted companion-nurse, 

Mary Lynn. Dr. H advises, above all 

things,^ that he should be kept cheerful and 



ACQUITTED. 



quiet. You know that it is not in your 
nature to be either, or to allow others to be 
so. If Jasper were in any danger, I should 
consider it a duty to send for you ; and if, as- 
I trust and hope will be the case, a winter in 
the South sets him up again, I will allow 
you to join him there ; but at present you 
could do him no good, and might do him a 
great deal of harm. Therefore, while I am 
here, I must insist on your remaining at 
Altamount Castle, where I hope you will 
devote your time and attentions to my 
father. 

" Yours affectionately, 

'' Derwent." 

It was certainly very cruel and arbitrary' 
of Lord Derwent thus to banish a mother 
from a suffering son's presence; but to 
those who knew what Lady Derwent really 
was, his conduct in this respect did not seem 
unwise or unjustifiable. 

Mean, selfish, cruel, and egotistical, pas- 



88 ACQUITTED. 



sionately jealous and outrageously vain, 
Lady Denvent was the worst person in the 
Avorld to have the care of a very sensitive, 
delicate patient like Jasper Ardennes. 

In her youth she had been a very bril- 
liant beauty. 

She had been spoilt by her parents and 
by a host of lovers and flatterers. 

She had jilted a man who adored her, 
and to whom she had been engaged for two 
years, in order to marry, as she believed, 
Lord Derwent. 

Neither he nor she had any idea that he 
w^as not free to marry her. 

She had never heard of his first marriage, 
and he fully believed that Minna had been 
lost at sea, when the Golden Bengal was 
wrecked. 

Lady Derwent's first lover shot himself 
in his despair, and she w^as proud of this 
terrible proof of his mistaken devotion and 
of her own charms. 

Lady Derwent's beauty did not last. 



ACQUITTED. 80 



It derived its principal charm from its 
peerless bloom, its brilliancy of colouring. 
Fraicheur and a delicate degree of embon- 
point, redundant tresses of golden-brown, 
rippled and silky, beautiful bright eyes 
of a forget-me-not blue, full scarlet lips, 
and even, sparkling teeth of pearly white — 
these, with fair features, high spirits, and 
great coquetry, were Miss Montresor's 
principal charms. 

She was a perfect Hebe in form and face 
when Lord Derwent, then the Hon. Jasper 
Ardennes, proposed to her, and when 
George Danvers, (a lieutenant who was 
waiting for a captainc}',) shot himself for 
love and grief. 

Alas! with youth and health all Lady 
Derwent's beauty vanished. 

What is Hebe but an incarnation of 
youth and health ! 

After the birth of her third child Lady 
Derwent became sallow, thin, sickly, sullen, 
verycross, very irritable, jealous, and spiteful. 



90 ACQUITTED. 



The climate of India had affected her 
liver. 

She lost her splendid hair, her exquisite 
teeth, her bloom, and her embonpoint ; and 
with those charms she lost her husband's 
love and all hold upon him. 

She tried all the resources of art. 

They made her passable. 

They could not make her beautiful. 

She had never had any charms of mind, 
or any amiable qualities. 

She had a sort of animal affection for her 
son, and a worldly pride in him as the heir 
to an earldom and a fine estate; but a more 
disagreeable, perverse, ill-tempered, mean- 
spirited tyrant did not exist than Lady 
Derwent at the time of which we write. 



ACQUITTED. PI 



CHAPTER IX. 

" Trifles light as air 
Are to the jealous confirmation i^trong 
As proofs of holy writ." 

S/ial'S2)eare. 




ADY DERWENT was more than 
ever jealous of Mary Lynn and of 
the great importance which Lord 
Derwent attached to the bulletin which 
came every morning and evening in the 
shape of a letter from Marj'- to his lord- 
ship. 

Miss Osgood was still, as ever, Mary^s 
best friend and bravest champion. 

Her long residence in the family, and 
her very resolute, dauntless character, gave 
her an influence and importance not often 



92 ACQUITTED. 



accorded to a governess in a family of high 
rank. 

It was Miss Osgood who had insisted 
on Mary Lynn's being treated, in spite of 
her low birth, as a lady when she became a 
sort of sub-governess at the Castle. " Edu- 
cation, by refining Mary Lynn's manners, 
tastes, and fieelings, has made her a gentle- 
woman," she would say ; " therefore she 
must be treated as she would be in any 
other family where her parentage was 
unknown. She is very useful here, but if 
she is to be snubbed, slighted, and insulted, 
I shall send her to Lady Clanhenry, who is 
very anxious to have her." 

It was thus Miss Osgood established 
Mary's footing at the Castle. 

Since her absence she had always taken 
her part, and as Lord Derwent insisted on 
the presence of Miss Osgood and her pupils 
every evening, to avoid a tete-a-tete with his 
wife, there had been frequent discussions 
about Mary Lynn, in which the friendship 



ACQUITTED. 93 



of Miss Osgood and the esteem of Lord 
Derwent did battle with the ill-will, jea- 
lousy, and hatred of Lady Derwent. 

Mary, in order to comfort the anxious 
father as much as she possibly could during 
the absence, which she knew to be such a 
protracted agony to him, entered into every 
little detail connected with her invalid 
charge. 

Mary had the delightful and easy grace 
of Madame de Sevigne in recording the 
little events of every day, the sapngs and 
doings of the loved one, the trifling inci- 
dents and remarks which form the staple 
of domestic life in a sick-room. Lord 
Derwent would peruse and re-peruse these 
letters of Mary Lynn's with the most 
earnest attention. 

Sometimes the colour would suffuse his 
pale cheek, sometimes a smile would play 
on his lips, sometimes a spasm would con- 
tract his brow, and a sigh issue from his 
very heart. 



94 ACQUITTED. 



All these evidences of absorbed interest 
and emotion Lady Derwent, while pretend- 
ing to busy herself with other things, would 
note with a watchful eye and register with 
a jealous heart. 

Lord Derwent never handed one of 
Mary Lynn's letters to her ladyship, al- 
though he did sometimes say, " Jasper is a 

little better;" or "Dr. H thought there 

was a trifling improvement yesterday;" or 
"Jasper took a drive and rather enjoyed 
it;" but he never said, "Would you like 
to hear or to see what Mary says about our 
dear boy." 

This reticence wrought Lady Derwent's 
weak, vain mind and strong passions up to 
such a pitch that she resolved, for the first 
time in her life, on an act of independence 
and disobedience to her tyrant's express 
commands. 

The fact was, Lady Derwent, like many 
other fine ladies, was a good deal in awe of 
her own maid. 



ACQUITTED. 95 



This maid, a certain Miss Susan Switch, 
a very expert and accomplished abigail, 
not only possessed all the secrets of her 
lady's toilet and " make-up," and was ne- 
cessary to their adjustment, but she had 
lent Lady Derwent certain sums at usurious 
interest, and had besides obtained the 
knowledge of a sad weakness, or rather 
sin, into which Lady Derwent, in her lone- 
liness, ennui, and despair, had fallen — 
namely, that of the private indulgence in 
stimulants ! 

Miss Switch thus had her lady com- 
pletely in her power. 

Lady Derwent dreaded her lord much, 
but she dreaded Switch more. 

Switch was very jealous of Mary Lynn, 
of her position in the family, of her stay in 
London, and projected tour on the Conti- 
nent; and Switch was in love with the 
footman who always remained at Alta- 
mount House. 

Added to this, Switch had a mother, a 



96 ACQUITTED. 



nurse — a better sort of Sairey Gamp — and 
Switcli wished to see lier mother estabhshed 
as Jasper's nurse. 

To carry out all her schemes, Switch 
worked on her lady's jealousy of Mary 
Lynn and on her fear of herself, to induce 
her to defy, outwit, and disobey Lord Der- 
went. 

Switch provided the necessary money, 
and worked upon Lady Derwent so suc- 
cessfully, that one day, after Lord Derwent 
had seemed more than usually interested 
in, and delighted by, a very long letter 
from Mary Lynn, Lady Derwent retired to 
her own apartments directly after break- 
fast, helped Switch to pack up her things, 
and as soon as she had ascertained that 
Lord Derwent had gone out, ordered her 
carriage, drove to the station, and set off 
with her abigail for London. 

* « * * 

The day upon which Lady Derwent took 
this decisive step was that on which Lord 



ACQUITTED. 97 



Derwent had resolved to ride over the 
-estate in company with his agent and his 
steward. 

The Earl was fortunate in having in his 
■service men of probity, attached to his 
interests and to himself. 

Lord Derwent found everything in ad- 
mirable order and in a flourishing con- 
•dition. 

Xo tenants had to complain of oppres- 
sion, and none were in arrears. 

"What a noble estate it is," thought 
Lord Derwent; "and if Jasper is but 
spared to inherit it one day, what a noble 
use he will make of the princely income 
w^hich will then be his. Ah, and that re- 
minds me that unless Minna is removed in 
time, she, on my father's death, both can 
iind will prove herself my wife, and thus 
prevent the possibility of Jasper's ever 
<ioming into the title or estates, for she 
cannot prove herself my wife without also 
proving my marriage with Jasper's mother 

VOL. 111. 7 



ACQUITTED. 



null and void, and all my children by that 
union illegitimate ! I should care very 
little about it were it not for my son, my 
beloved Jasper. Such a discovery would 
be the most terrible punishment that could 
be inflicted on the most unamiable, selfish, 
and ill-tempered woman in the world. She 
who now supposes herself to be Lady 
Derwent never had anything to recommend 
her but her once brilliant beauty and 
bloom. Of that beauty there is now not 
one trace. Minna had beauty of a higher,, 
though not so dazzling a kind; and Minna 
had a noble, loving heart, a sweet, unselfish, 
devoted nature, a fine and cultivated mind. 
If it were not for Jasper I would let 
matters take their course. I would much 
rather see Minna a countess than the per- 
verse, selfish, and jealous Augusta. I 
married the latter under the firm conviction 
that I was a widower, and therefore I am 
not to blame. But though I should be 
glad to see Augusta punished and disgraced,. 



ACQUITTED. 99 



I could not survive my Jasper's ruin, nor 
bear to see him cast down from his present 
proud position as future Earl of Altamount, 
and branded with illegitimacy — he who, 
like the ermine, would pine to death for a 
single stain. Xo, rather than any disgrace 
or sorrow should assail Jasper, I would 
have all the women in England banished, 
ay, and beheaded, Minna and Augusta 
among them ; and therefore I must com- 
municate with Dan Devrill. What is done, 
had better be done quickly, but I will have 
no bodily injury inflicted on the poor 
creature. She shall be safely conveyed 
to Rotterdam; she shall be lodged at 
Vaneck's, and every comfort and luxury 
shall surround her; and there she must 
remain during the remainder of her life, 
for she must never come back to disgrace 
and degrade my admirable and beloved 
boy." 

Lord Derwent returned home to dinner, 
and on inquiring for Lady Derwent heard 

7—2 



100 ACQUITTED. 



she had gone out, and had not returned, 
and that she had left word that his lordship 
was not to wait dinner for her. 

Lord Derwent supposed she was gone to 
visit some one in the neiglibourhood, and, 
on the whole, he was glad to be relieved 
of her very unpleasant company for a few 
hours. If he had had the least idea of the 
fact, he would have been furious, for never 
before had Lady Derwent ventured openly 
to disobey him. 

It was a lovely evening, and after dinner 
Lord Derwent resolved to stroll out: by the 
sea. Mary Lynn had begged him to 
inquire for her, how her mother was, 
as Rosy had said in her last letter that 
their mother had been far from well of late. 
" If," said Mary Lynn, in that very letter, 
"your lordship would condescend to call 
at our cottage and see my dear mother 
yourself, and ask her how she feels, and tell 
me how she looks, I should feel very 
grateful, for alas ! my lord, in every letter 



ACQUITTED. 101 



I have had from home of late, some mention 
has been made of mother's not being well, 
and I think they do not tell me «//, for fear 
of distressing me. But I trust to you, my 
lord, to let me know exactly how dear 
mother really is ; it is mistaken kindness, 
indeed, to deceive one on such a r^ry, very 
important matter. I know you will think 
so, my lord ; and 1 trust to your lordship's 
great kindness to find out the truth, and to 
let me know it as soon as convenient." 

Lord Derwent thus urged, and feeling 
grateful to Mary Lynn for her devoted atten- 
tion and unvarying kindness to Jasper, set 
out on foot after dinner, on the day of Lady 
Derwent's departure, to call at Xatt Lynn's 
cottage in the Cliifs. 

It was a lovely evening. 

August was drawing to a close, and the 
rich tints of early autumn were beginning 
to variegate the trees of the park and plan- 
tations, as Lord Derwent strolled through 
them on his way down to the sea ! 



102 ACQUITTED. 



Nothing could exceed the beauty of the 
ancestral trees and the wide domain of 
Altamount at this lovely season ; and Lord 
Derwent, as he gazed on the old brown 
towers and parapets of the massive pile, on 
the noble extent of pasture and forest land, 
on the deer playing at bo-peep, on the 
cattle grazing, the flocks browsing, and the 
pleasant farms nestling in snug nooks and 
dotting the distant landscape with their 
white walls and thatched roofs, — thought 
not of the real possessor of all these " good 
thino;s," who was Ivino- half imbecile and 
paralysed in his darkened chamber, but of 
his beloved Jasper, whom he persisted in 
looking upon as almost certain to recover, 
and to be one day lord of this noble 
estate ! 

The sun was setting like an Eastern 
monarch retiring to rest, in a canopy of 
purple, crimson, and gold; and the moon 
was rising pale and wan in the cold and 
colourless East, as Lord Derwent passed 



ACQUITTED. 103 



through a iield where Jasper's pony was 
grazing, and came suddenly upon a mag^ 
nificent view of the sea, whose calm ripples 
were flooded with the rich and varied hues 
reflected from the sunset. 

Lord Derwent paused a moment to ad- 
mire this exquisite scene, and then he 
hurried down to the beach and took his way 
to Natt Lynn's cottage. 

Xatt Lynn was from home, but Rosy re- 
ceived his lordship and told him that 
'' Mother was very bad — that for some 
weeks she had been in a very low, nervous 
state, and seemed to have something on her 
mind; — at any rate, that for the last few 
days she had talked a great deal about 
' Mary,' and had said that she wanted badly 
to see her. I have not told Mary that 
mother wants to see her, my lord," said 
Rosy, " because, as I hear Master Jasper's 
so bad, I thought she couldn't well be 
spared ; but father said this morning that if 
mother went on fretting about Mary, she 



104 ACQUITTED. 



must come home to see what she could do 
to quiet and comfort mother." 

" I hope that will not be necessary, my 
pretty one !" said Lord Derwent. " I don't 
know what my son would do without Mary 
to read to him and sit with him ! I hope 
your mother has every comfort, and that it 
is not anything about money matters that 
preys on her mind. I know your father 
lost his new boat, and perhaps your mother 
takes that to heart?" 

" Mother says everything has gone w^rong 
lately, my lord, ever since Mary left us. 
Our cows have died of the cattle plague, 
father's lost his new boat, and he've had no* 
luck with his fishing for many weeks. 
Mother do take on and fret, and say it's 
all her fault, though I'm sure she ain't to 
blame, for never was there a more hard- 
workino; woman than mother before she 
was taken ill." 

'' Well,*' said Lord Derwent, taking out 
a ten-pound note, "give this to your 



ACQUITTED. 101 



mother and tell her Lord Derwent is very 
sorry to hear such a bad account of every- 
thing; but that if she wants more, to set 
matters right, she has only to let him know. 
Take care of yourself, Rosy ; I should think 
all the young fellows for miles round are in 
love with you. They'll be catching you up 
and running away with you some day, 
Rosy." 

"They'll soon set me down again, my 
lord," said Rosy, blushing; "I've other 
iish to fry." 

Lord Derwent patted the peach-like cheek 
of the young Hebe, and tempted by the 
exquisite beauty of the sunset on the sea, 
continued his walk along the shore. 

What memories of the Past thronged his 
brain, as he revisited the scenes associated 
with his first wild love for Minna Tre- 
lawny. 

How often had she wandered with him 
at early dawn along this then enchanted 
shore. How often had they gazed together 



106 ACQUITTED. 



on as glorious a sunset, or watched the 
moon rise, hand in hand. 

There was a sort of seat among the cliiFs 
formed by the hand of Nature, and carpeted 
with soft green sod. A mass of rock sheltered 
it from the view of any one coming towards 
it from the village, as he was now doing ; 
and Minna and himself had hedged it on 
the other side by planting some graceful 
tamarisk trees, which had taken root and 
flourished wonderfully there. 

Lord Derwent had never visited 
^'Minna's Bower" since they were lovers, 
but this evening he felt a strange desire to 
see that once loved spot — an upward path 
among the cliffs led to it. 

Lord Derwent took that path, and arrived, 
his steps unheard on the soft sand and 
short sod, within view of Minna's bower. 

The bower was not untenanted. 

It seemed as if the ghost of his first love 
— his wife — sat there ! 

A tall, very slender figure, robed in 



ACQUITTED, 107 



black, was on that seat. She was pale as 
the rising moon — her veil and bonnet 
thrown off; her long black hair gently 
stirred by the evening breeze; her thin 
white hands clasped and her eyes cast 
down ; — she seemed to be plunged in deep 
and painful thought, absorbed by some 
most mournful reverie ! — Changed as Minna 
was from the blooming Diana she had 
been when last Lord Derwent had seen her 
on that spot, she was still a woman of rare 
and captivating beauty. 

The old love rushed back on Lord 
Derwent's heart, and a wild remorse as he 
thought of her passionate devotion — the 
lofty truth — which had kept her silent for 
eighteen long miserable years, and the wreck 
he had made of his fortunes and her life, all 
combined to stifle the voice of prudence ; 
and rushing forward with a cry of pain, 
Lord Derwent fell on his knees before 
Minna and buried his face in her lap ! 

At that wild cry, Minna had looked up. 



108 ACQUITTED. 



She had recognised her destroyer — her 
husband — the lover of her youth ! And as 
he knelt before her, covering her hands with 
tears and kisses, the old love stole over her 
heart. 

What a mysterious, what an inscrutable 
thing is the human heart ! and how impos- 
sible is it for the wisest and most reflective, 
to prophesy what that wayward organ may 
2:)rompt its possessor to do or say, under 
strong excitement and unforeseen temp- 
tation ! 

For eighteen years ]\linna had never 
thought of Lord Derwent, but as her cruel 
oppressor, her destroyer — the foe at once 
to her honour and her life. 

Often had she figured to herself the 
scorn, the vindictive hate, that would fill 
her heart and prompt her words, were she 
ever to find herself face to face with that 
bad, remorseless man ! 

He is at her feet now, and all is for the 
moment forgotten, and her tears fall like 



ACQUITTED. 109 



rain on the head that lie buries in her 
lap! 

After a few moments Lord Derwent 
rises, and standing erect before his wife, 
who, her face hidden in her hands, is weep- 
ing silently, he says — 

'' Minna — my dear, my gentle Minna! — 
why did you leave me? To that one error 
all our misery is owing ! I believed that, 
you had perished in the wreck of the 
Golden Bengal ; and thou£':h it was, in spite 
of our incompatibility of temper, a dread- 
ful blow to my heart to think that I had 
lost you for ever, yet it was in the firm 
belief that I was a widower, that I married 



agam l 



There was a tone of reproach in these 
words — an attempt to exonerate his cruel 
guilty self, and ascribe all blame and fault 
to his innocent victim — which at once 
checked Minna's tears, and changed the 
feelings from Avhich they sprang, from ten- 
derness to resentment. 



110 ACQUITTED. 



She dashed away the drops from her 
eyes, and starting up she said — 

"Is it possible that you can attempt to 
excuse or justify your conduct to me? 
What drove me from you? What made 
me flee with my child from your terrible, 
your dangerous presence? Have you for- 
gotten your infamous cruelty to the ill- 
fated woman who had trusted you so 
entirely ? — who had left a happy home and 
a proud, loving father, to follow 3^ou to a 
land where, though your wedded w^ife, you 
meanly made me pass as your mistress; 
and where you dared to propose to me, to 
give up my proofs of our secret marriage, 
to make myself infamous, and to ruin my 
child, in order that you might marry the 
new idol of your sensual and inconstant 
heart ! What could I do but fly from one 
so cruel and so base ? I did not think my 
life, or that of my child safe, w^hile in the 
power of one who could make such an in- 
famous proposal to his law^ful wife — the 



ACQUITTED. Ill 



mother of his child ! I feared you then, 
for then a life far dearer to me than my own 
was at stake. Now I am fearless, now I am 
childless, — now I only live on in order to 
clear my name — my father's name — from a 
foul blot ! I do not covet a coronet and title, 
but I do burn to be able to say to m}^ father, 
' Father, I have not disgraced your ancient 
name ! I married Jasper Ardennes — I am 
his lawful wife. The woman who has so 
long passed as Lady Derwent is — w^hat I 
will not name; all his children by her are 
illegitimate ; and had my girl — my darling 
— been saved from the wreck she would be 
sole heir of the title and estates of this 
house — she would be one day Countess of 
Altamount in her own right.' 

"It is only to be able to say this to my 
father that I have lived on, endured on; — 
when I have proved to him that his only 
child has not disgraced him, I hope this 
wounded heart will break !'' 

Lord Derwent was sur[)rised at the 



112 ACQUITTED. 



sudden change in Minna's tone and manner. 
He had hoped that all spirit had died out 
of her half-broken heart — that, crushed and 
bowed down as she was, he should have 
been able by a few honeyed words to mould 
her to his purpose. 

He found her, in spite of the emotion 
that had overcome her when first he knelt 
weeping at her feet, full of the sense of her 
unparalleled wrongs, resolute to clear her 
name and fame from a foul blot, strong in 
filial piety and the sense of what she owed 
to the proud father who, in spite of her in- 
gratitude, deceit, and folly, had taken her 
back to his heart and home, unquestioned 
and unreproached. 

" Minna !" at length he said, " listen to 
me. I acknowledge the truth of all you 
say. You have acted nobly, bravely, 
sublimely; you have kept your vow, and 
now that the day is at hand when you will 
be released from the obligation of keeping 
it any longer, my fate, my fortunes, my 



ACQUITTED. W 



character, are in }'our hands. Be it so, 
Minna — never to save them would I implore 
you still to keep the secret of our private 
marriage ; but oh ! Minna, there is one ten 
thousand times dearer to me than myself, 
one whom I love as you loved that dear 
child we lost in the wreck — I speak of my 
son, a noble, proud, and most virtuous 
youth, brought up to believe himself the 
la^^-fal heir to the title and estates of Alta- 
mount. Minna, for him I plead, for him 
I kneel and weep. His state is precarious; 
he is, alas! consumptive; a shock might 
snap in a moment the slender thread of his 
existence. Minna, if our child had lived, 
I would not — I could not — have asked you, 
by your silence, as to our private marriage, 
to wrong, to defraud our child; but as she 
is no more, I do implore you to keep our 
secret still, unless it is God's will to take 
my son. If he dies, if I am to lose him, 
then do as you will, I will put no impedi- 
ment in the way of your proving yourself 
VOL. in. S 



114 ACQUITTED, 



my wife. Nay, I will aid you to vindicate 
your honour, for I would much rather see 
you, my still lovely and beloved Minna, in- 
stalled as Countess of Altamount, than the 
hard-hearted, perverse, and hateful woman 
who now supposes herself to be my 
wife ! For my other children I care 
little. They must be provided for, and 
they are too young to feel their degrada- 
tion ; but m}^ boy, my noble Jasper, it 
would kill him to know that he is illegiti- 
mate, that his mother was not, could not 
have been wedded to me, since my lawful 
wife was alive when she stood at the altar 
hy my side. The law and the world will 
not take into account that both Augusta 
and myself were ignorant of your existence, 
Minna. But on my noble and innocent 
son the blow will fall most heavily, if God 
spares his life. Minna, I implore you spare 
it too ! If he is to be taken from me, then 
assert our marriage, prove and claim your 
rights, and drive the odious Augusta from 



ACQUITTED. 115 



the place and position to which you alone 
are entitled. But oh! Minna, Minna, if 
my son lives, and while he lives, keep the 
secret still, I implore you !" 

Lord Derwent knelt at Minna's feet as 
he urged this prayer with clasped hands 
and streaming eyes. 

Minna was moved, but she thought of 
her father. 

She well knew that her father guessed 
her secret, and the vow that bound her to 
keep it during the old Earl's life, and that 
the proud old man bore all, and lived on, in 
the hope of the coming of that bright day 
when the stain would be washed from his 
ancient name, and he would be able to own 
his daughter, and proclaim her not only 
Countess of Altamount, but a woman of 
spotless virtue and honour. 

" Should I do right," she said to herseli^ . 
*'to sacrifice the truth, my fair fame, 
and my father to this wicked man's love 
for his son? Ah, but for him I now 

S—2 



116 ACQUITTED. 



might have a daughter to love and com- 
fort me!" 

At length she said — 

'' If you had only asked me to sacrifice 
myself to your son, my lord, I might yield : 
but you ask me to sacrifice the truth and 
my father ! This I will not do ! He has 
never questioned me, and if he had, I must 
have kept my vow ; but I know he guesses 
my secret and its conditions, and that for 
years he has lived on in the hope of being 
able before he dies to own his only child^ 
and to see her fame cleared and her rights 
recognised. How can you ask me to sacri- 
fice the best and noblest of fathers to the 
worst of husbands, and to his son by 
another woman? Away, my lord, I will 
not listen to you. To you I owe eighteen 
years of secret, silent anguish — to you I 
owe the loss of my angel child — to you I 
owe the misery of my own life and my 
father's. I have kept my vow, and will 
keep it still while the Earl lives, but 



ACQUITTED. 117 



not one clay, not one hour, after his 
death !" 

" My father may live many years, 
madam," said Lord Derwent, who had risen 
from his knees, livid with rage and his eyes 
flashing. 

'' As long as the Earl lives I shall respect 
my vow, and keep the secret of our private 
marriage," said Minna; "but not one hour 
longer. And now I beg you to leave me. 
My friends will probably come in search of 
me, as they often do — and, in fact, I fancy 
I see Natt Lynn's boat making for this 
point. Natt Lynn often stops here on his 
way home to take me back, if I am disposed 
for a sail." 

''Minna," said Lord DerAvent, "you 
cannot be so changed. It is not in your 
nature to be defiant, cruel, remorseless, and 
i^elentless; you will not destroy my son?" 

" I will not destroy my father, my lord," 
said Minna. " Directly I am released from 
my vow I will proclaim the truth." 



118 ACQUITTED. 



'^Farewell, then, madam," said Lord 
Derwent ; " may you never bitterly repent 
of your implacable and vindictive reso- 
lution." 

He strode away after lie had spoken 
these words, and added to himself — " Fool, 
she has sealed her own doom. Now I have 
no choice but to arrange with Devrill 
to carry her to Rotterdam ; and I must 
write to Vaneck to tell him that although 
I wish him to make her as comfortable as 
possible, he has my free permission to use 
any amount of restraint, coercion, and 
severity he may deem necessary to prevent 
her making any attempt at escape. I would 
not any real harm should happen to her, and 
for her lifelong incarceration in a madhouse 
she has only her own obstinate, passionate 
self to thank. But for her perverse folly I 
could have loved her again. She is a noble^ 
beautiful creature ; and now at thirty-nine 
she is in many respects handsomer than she 
was in her early youth. As it is, I must 



ACQUITTED. 11^ 



write at once to Devrill. My father, as his 
physician says, may expire suddenly at any 
hour of the day or night. It is not safe for 
Minna to be at large any longer. I ought 
to see Devrill here, and, if possible, learn 
that Minna is at Rotterdam before I go 
back to town. Wretched Minna, she has 
accelerated her own fate. Devrill must 
manage so that it shall be believed the boat 
in which she sailed for a little excursion, 
capsized, and that she was drowned. Her 
stiff-necked, vindictive old father will not 
long survive her; and Avith his death all 
my danger will be at an end." 

Lord Derwent, thus communing with 
himself, hastened back to Altamount 
Castle. There a letter awaited him, which 
had arrived by the evening post from the 
station. 

Lord Derwent recognised the weak, 
cramped hand of Lady Derwent. 

She said, that as she had made up her 
mind to 2:0 to Town to see her son, she 



120 ACQUITTED. 



had set off without informing his lordship 
of her intention, as she wished to avoid all 
discussion, and had resolved not any longer 
to sacrifice her duty and inclination to his 
violence and tyranny." 

Lord Derwent's rage was as violent as it 
was vain. There was no help for it; Lady 
Derwent was gone, and he must stay where 
he was, at least until he had seen and con- 
sulted with Devrill — na}^, if possible, until 
he knew that Minna was safe at Rotterdam, 
and secure under the lock and key of 
Vaneck, in his Dutch madhouse. 



ACQUITTED. 121 



CHAPTER X. 

"You, the wanderer, sad though youthful, 
In your short and fleeting spring, 
Hold this motto, good and trathful. 
It will consolation bring. 

Trust in God." 

WiLLiAiT GoEDOX SiiYTHiES : Golden Leisures. 

AUL PENRYN liad spent the 
evening at Altarnount House with 
Jasper and Mary. 
He had amused them with a lively 
account of his interview with the Conductor 
of the Cheapside^ and Jasper, not strong 
enough to bear the noisy gambols of his 
little sisters, had begged Mary to send 
them, under the care of a servant, to romp 
in the dinino:-room, while he took tea with 
Paul and herself in the library. 




122- ACQUITTED. 



It was a cold windy evening, and Jasper 
was very chilly. 

Mary had a cheerful fire lighted — and 
the tea-table, at which she presided, drawn 
up to the sofa on which Jasper lay. The 
firelight played with a ruby and golden 
glow on the backs of the rows of handsome 
richly-bound books that lined the walls of 
the library. 

The crimson curtains were drawn, and 
the scene was one of quiet comfort, very 
soothing to an invalid ! 

Mary sat at the tea-table, prettily set 
out with fresh flowers and tempting fruit. 

" Dear friends," said poor Jasper, as he 
sipped his tea — he ahvays felt more re- 
freshed by tea than by any other beverage 
— " lying here in such peace and comfort; 
with such gentle hands to tend me, and 
such loved voices to cheer me, I scarcely 
feel my weakness and my pain, and could 
almost sav with Paul's o-ood old hostess, 
Mrs. Collins, that 'I enjoy very bad health.^ 



ACQUITTED. VZ 



After all, there is a sort of luxury in being 
so cared for, so petted ; but while I am 
so cherished and comforted, so pampered 
and so loved, I often think what must be 
the misery of those poor creatures, who, 
far worse in health than I am, have no 
comforts, no quiet, no friends to cheer 
and solace them, perhaps even no shelter 
from the elements — is it not too dreadful? 
If I ever live to be rich and powerful I 
will build a Refuge for the Consumptive, 
curable or incurable, and whatever their 
antecedents. With no testimonials but their 
sufferings, no introduction but their dis- 
ease, they shall be welcome to a home 
where all that can alleviate shall abound, 
and where care for the future shall not be 
allowed to add to the anguish of their pre- 
sent pain. Mary! when tea is over I want 
you to bring your desk, and Mr. Penryn, 
who is such a ready reckoner, will help us 
to make a calculation as to what the sort 
of Refu2:e I mean would cost annually. If 



124 ACQUITTED. 



I am not spared to establish it myself, I 
shall make it a last request to my father 
that he will, when he is the Earl of 
Altamount, carry out this plan of mine, 
and open a Home for the Consumptive in 
memory of his son." 

Mary Lynn's eyes tilled with tears as 
Jasper said this, and even Paul felt that 
his own were moist. 

'' Don't let me sadden you, dear friends," 
said Jasper. " I think and trust I shall be 
spared to see the fruition of my plan. I 
feel so much better to-night, and the quiet 
cheerfulness of an eveninn: with you is so 
soothing to my spirit. When we have 
made our calculation, Mary, you must sing 
to us, while Mr. Penryn will perhaps draw 
out a plan for my Eefuge." 



The tea-tray was removed, the table was 
cleared. Mary, with her desk before her, 
drew out a scale of the expanses of a Re- 



ACQUITTED. 12r^ 



fuge for five hundred consumptive patients. 
Jasper was much interested in the process, 
and much animated by the discussions that 
ensued. Seeing his eyes very bright and 
his cheeks flushed, Mary, after about an 
hour spent in planning and cah^ilating, j^ut 
her desk aside, and begging Paul to draw a 
sketch of the projected Refuge, she' shook 
up Jasper's pillows, and told him he must 
lie down and be very quiet, or else he 
would be all the worse for the excitement, 
and she should blame herself and be very 
unhappy. 

Jasper promised to lie down and be very 
quiet, if Mary would sit by his side and 
sing to him. 

Mary complied, and at Jasper's request 
sang all his favourite songs. Her exquisite 
voice was equally sweet in "Kon piu 
mesta" and in " Auld Robin Gray" — she 
was delightful in the livehest French 
chanson and in the most touching Irish 
melody. 



126 ACQUITTED. 



She had just begged Paul to hand lier 
lier guitar, in order to accompany herself 
wliile she sang a Spanish serenade, and 
Jasper had just encored the beautiful song, 
when a loud double-knock at the street 
door startled the quiet, happy trio. 

" My father !" said Jasper. " I heard a 
carriage drive up. How glad he will be 
to find me so much better !" 

The door was thrown open, and Lady 
Derwent entered. 

''My beloved son!" cried her ladyship, 
rushing up to Jasper and embracing him 
theatrically, "why are you lying down? 
Are you too weak to sit up? It is very 
bad for you to be smothered in pillows and 
shawls. Why do you sit in this small 
room ? — and, for Heaven's sake, why have 
afire?" 

"I am chilly, dear mother," said Jasper, 
" and a fire is essential to my comfort. If 
it is so hot and close, I am very sorry, for 
the sake of those kind friends who have 



ACQUITTED. 127 



borne it so patiently on my account, that I 
selfishly forgot it might be too much for 
them. Dear mother, you know Mary 
Lynn, but I must introduce my friend Mr. 
Paul Penryn. Don't go, Mr. Penryn !" 

But Paul had risen, and saying — " I 
must leave you now, Mr. Jasper Ardennes," 
had shaken hands with him and Mary, 
bowed somewhat stiffly to Lady Derwent, 
and took his leave. 

" After such a long separation, Jasper,'' 
said Lady Derwent, " I want to have a 
little private conversation with you." 

Mary Lynn rose, blushed deeply, shook 
hands with Paul and wished him good 
night, and, bowing to Lady Derwent, was 
about to retire, when Jasper said — 

" But, Mary, you are not going for good, 
are you? You will give me my medicine, 
and help me upstairs, and do all the little 
things that make me so comfortable !" 

" My dear Jasper," said Lady Derwent, 
*' I am come to establish myself here as 



128 ACQUITTED. 



head-nurse, and whatever you require for 
your comfort I will do for you. Lynn 
need not trouble herself any more. You 
have only to tell me what you want, and I 
will do it for you. There is no nursing like 
a mother's nursing, no love like a mother's 
love. And now I wish to be alone with 
you, my darling son. I have many things 
to say to you which I do not want a 
stranger to hear." 

" But Mary is not a stranger, mother," 
said Jasper, tears filling his eyes, for his 
nerves were very weak. 

Mary had hurried out of the room, her- 
self in tears. 

" Then I wish she were, Jasper," said 
Lady Derwent. " I do not approve of these 
unequal friendships, nor can I conceive 
why so proud and haughty a man as your 
father should encourage you to treat as a 
sister the daughter of Lynn the fisher- 
man." 

"Oh, mamma, if you knew how kind. 



ACQUITTED. 129 



how devoted Mary has been to me! I 
don't care who her father is, she is an 
angel !" 

"• My poor boy !" said Lady Derwent, 
" you will find plenty of low-born ambi- 
tious, interested baggages, who will try to 
appear angels to the youug heir to an earl- 
dom and fifty thousand per annum. But 
pray who was that young man who was 
making himself so completely at home 
when I arrived?" 

*' That is young Penryn of Penryn 
Manor House, mother," said Jasper, much 
excited, and yet sadly depressed. " He is 
quite a gentleman, and my father likes him 
very much, and has given him a general 
invitation. His company enlivens me." 

" Ah, you wont want him or that girl 
Lynn, or any one else, now }'ou have me. 
But I am faint with fatigue and fasting, so 
I'll ring and have supper brought up 
here." 

Jasper was in a very nervous state. 

VOL. III. ' 9 



130 ACQUITTED. 



Those accustomed to attend to him knew 
this, and avoided everything hkely to worry 
or distress him. 

Lady Derwent, like all egotists, was very 
deficient in tact, and had had no experience 
in nursing. 

She was abruj)t, angular, awkward. 

She had a very shrill voice and a very 
fussy manner. 

Jasper, accustomed to the graceful, 
gentle ways of Mary Lynn, and the low 
sweet music of her voice, felt, in his weak- 
ness and his melancholy, irritated almost to 
tears, by the uncomfortable change so sud- 
denly carried out. 

It worried him very much to think that 
Mary had been so harshly, so insultingly, 
driven from his side. 

All peace, all comfort, for him were gone 
now. 

Lady Derwent in beating up his pillows, 
which she did in a very demonstrative and 
awkward manner, had not only struck his 



ACQUITTED. 131 



head with her sharp elbow, but she had so 
disposed the pillows that he could not rest 
at all. 

Jasper was in a high fever, and his 
cough, in consequence, became ver}^ trouble- 
some. 

Lady Derwent was much more annoyed 
than affected by that distresshig cough. 

She kept on making a clicking noise with 
her tongue, meant to be expressive of sym- 
pathy, but in which Jasper's quick ear 
detected a good deal of impatience. 

At length, however, her ladyship's 
supper was served. 

She had ordered mock turtle soup and a 
rump steak. 

Lady Derwent was quite a gourmande, 
and drank bottled stout, ordered by her 
medical adviser. 

Like all egotists, Lady Derwent made a 
great noise in eating and drinking. 

The effect on Jasper was very distress- 



ing- 



9--2 



132 ACQUITTED. 



The smell of the mock turtle soup quite 
overj)Owerecl his weak nerves. 

A footman, who was pouring out a foam- 
ing glass of bottled stout for Lady Der- 
went, hearing a low moan from the sofa^ 
dropped the bottle, for Jasper had fainted 
away. 

Lady Derwent started up and uttered 
scream upon scream ; both the footman and 
herself thought Jasper was dead, and cer- 
tainl}^, to all appearance, he was a corpse. 

All the servants rushed in, for Lady 
Derwent rang the bell violently and re- 
peatedly, while the footman did what he 
could to recover his young master. 

Mary Lynn, hearing the shrieks of Lady 
Derwent and the loud ringing of the bell, 
rushed down in her white wrapper; her 
hair, which she had been brushing, floating 
about her form. 

She alone preserved any degree of pre- 
sence of mind, or could give any sensible 
orders. 



ACQUITTED. 133 



She had seen Jasper very near fainting 
before, but she liad never seen him really 
insensible. 

She sent a footman for the nearest 
medical man. 

She loosened liis necktie. 

She bathed his temples with eau de 
Coloo:ne, and held strono^ salts to his 
nostrils. 

He had opened his eyes and spoken her 
name, when ]\Ir. Parker, a young surgeon 
from a street close by, was announced, and 
he advised that Jasper should be taken at 
once into a cooler room and put to 
bed. 

Mary, in spite of the snake-like ferocity 
of Lady Derwent's glances, continued to do 
all she could for Jasper, until he was suffi- 
ciently recovered to retire to his bed- 
room. 

" To what do you attribute this 
swoon?" said Mary, to the medical 
iiian. 



lai ACQUITTED. 



"Well, Miss," said Mr. Parker, a young 
assistant-surgeon from a general prac- 
titioner's, " excuse me, but the room's too 
'ot, and there's a faintish smell of mock 
turtle soup, which, though it's very pleasant 
to the -strong and 'earty, might take effect 
on any one in such a very weak state as 
this young gentleman." 

" I think it was the smell of the soup,'^ 
said Jasper. 

"Oh dear!" cried Lady Derwent, "I'm 
very sorry if my supper has caused all this 
commotion. Jones !" she cried, addressing 
her own footman, " let my supper be taken 
into my own boudoir, and let the soup be 
made hot again. King for Garnet to come 
to me, and help her to lay the cloth, 
and be very careful to send the steak up 
hot. I hope she has stewed some oysters 
with it. I will stay here, Jasper, until 
you feel equal to going to bed. By 
the bye, wdio attends to you during the 
night?" 



ACQUITTED. 135 



" James, my own valet, sleeps in my 
dressing-room, mamma," said Jasper. 

" And where is he ? What is the reason 
he is not in attendance?" 

" I gave him leave to go out this evening, 
mamma." 

" James is come in, sir," said Jones. 

" Very well ; then I think I will go to 
bed. Good night, mamma. Good night, 
Mary. Remember I cannot do with- 
out you. You must not forsake me,'" 
he said. " I am so used to your 
gentle nursing, I cannot dispense with 
it." 

Lady Derwent statted up. 

'' Good night, sir !" she said, in a 
furious rage. " Of course you prefer 
that fisherman's daughter and her nursing 
to mine ! However, I'm mistress here, 
and to-morrow I shall put matters on 
a very different footing. At present 
I'm too faint and weary to say or do 
anv more !" 



136 ACQUITTED. 



And Lady Derwent flounced out of the 
room. 

Jasper, resting his head on Mary's 
shoulder, burst into tears. 



ACQUITTED. 137 



CHAPTER XI. 

Slighted love is sair to bide." 

J5ur?is. 




R. PEMBERTON took a great 
interest in Paul's literary debut. 
He was himself a very elegant 
scholar, and had contributed, at one time, 
very largely to our quarterlies and month- 
lies. 

Accustomed to the gentlemanly, delicate, 
and liberal manner in which the proprietors 
of those high-class magazines conducted all 
their affairs, Mr. Pemberton was much en- 
raged and disgusted at the cheating and 
insolent proceedings of the Conductor of the 
Cheapside. 

Several violent bursts of passion were 



138 ACQUITTED. 



the result of Paul's history of his ludicrous 
interview with that Oily Gammon and 
arch-humbug, the Conductor of the Cheap- 
side. 

Mr. Pemberton was very anxious to 
accompany Paul the next time he went to 
the office of that magazine. 

Paul was rather afraid to take his kind 
old friend with him, for he knew how little 
chance an honest-hearted man who puts 
himself in a violent passion, has against a 
deliberate, cold-blooded, self-satisfied pre- 
tender. 

Mr. Pemberton, however, flew into 
such alarming fits of passion at Paul's 
endeavouring to deter him from visiting 
the Conductor, that he at last reluctantl}^ 
agreed. 

Mr. Pemberton's rage had been, if pos- 
sible, increased by a letter which Paul had 
received from the Conductor, and which 
he had rather imprudently shown to Mr. 
Pemberton. It ran thus : — 



ACQUITTED. 



" The Cheajyside Office. 
" (Private.) 

" My dear Sir, — Will you send the MS. of 
your second little tale as soon as possible ; 
so young a writer, and so new a hand, 
should give us as much time as possible to 
consult and consider how we can improve 
and polish up those first efforts, which even 
when indicative of genius must, in the 
nature of things, be somewhat crude, and 
require the watchful eye and pruning 
hand of experience, before they are laid 
before readers, so fastidious and discrimi- 
nating as those of the Cheapside. At the 
same time, aware how encouraging to the 
tyro in authorship is any certainty of re- 
muneration, I propose to you to bind 
yourself to furnish me with twelve cols, 
weekly for my cheap publications, and with 
six pages monthly for my Cheapside^ for 
the sum of HI. per month. I shall also 
expect you to bind yourself not to write for 



UO ACQUITTED. 



any other publisher so long as I wish to 
retain your services. If you will call upon 
me to-morrow, bringing with you the 
' copy' of your second tale, I will have the 
little bond I propose to you to sign, ready. 
Wishingyou joy of so good an appointment 
at the very beginning of your career, 
" I am, my dear Sir, 

" Your very sincere friend, 

" Flummehy Foxwell." 

''The rapacious, remorseless scoundrel!" 
cried old Pemberton, with a terrible oath. 
''Why, twelve columns of the small print 
used in penny papers, and six pages of 
magazine size, would compel you to work 
like a galley-slave, and all for 21. a month. 
How I should enjoy giving your fine ' Con- 
ductor' the thrashing he deserves." 

Paul, who was very much afraid that his 
irascible friend might be provoked by the 
cool effrontery and transparent humbug of 
the Conductor into an assault, for which he 



ACQUITTED. 141 

would, of course, have heavy damages to 
pay, said all he could to deter him from 
accompanying him. But Mr. Pemberton 
was quite determined ; and the next day 
being Saturday, and therefore a half- 
holiday at Paul's office, it was decided that 
they should go together to the Cheapside 
office at 8 P.M. 

While Paul and his old friend were 
sitting together after dinner, Paul partaking 
very sparingly, and his old friend rather 
freely of the fine old port for which Mr. 
Pemberton's cellar was famous, and of the 
beautiful fruit fresh from his own country- 
seat, the evenhig post brought Mr. Pem- 
berton a letter. 

It contained a cheque. 

Mr. Pemberton handed the letter and 
the cheque to Paul. It was from the editor, 
to whom Paul's review had been sent. 

In the most generous manner it praised 
the style, the classical knowledge, and the 
good taste of the reviewer; and the editor 



142 ACQUITTED. 



forwarded a cheque for twenty -five pounds, 
with the, to Paul, enchanting intima- 
tion, that further contributions would be 
welcome. 

" We'll take that letter with us, Paul," 
said Mr. Pemberton. " If anything can 
make your ' Conductor' blush, it will be the 
contrast between his mean rapacity and the 
liberal conduct of a Conductor who is a 
o'entleman too." 



At 3 P.M. the next day Paul and his old 
friend drove into the City. 

Mr. Pemberton, purple with rage, was 
planning all the way what he should do, 
and what he should say. 

Alas ! it was all in vain ! 

As they approached the office of the 
Cheajjside they perceived a crowd round 
the house. 

The brokers were in possession. Mr. 
Conductor had just been arrested; and 



ACQUITTED. 143 



Paul and Mr. Pemberton arrived only in 
time to see him carried off to Wliitecross 
Street, in a cab between two bailiffs. 

All Mr. Pemberton's rage evaporated at 
the sight of its object brought to such a 
very humiliating position. 

He would have lent him, or rather given 
him the money to free himself, had he 
known what the debt was, and how to 
communicate with him. 

The matchless, cool, and almost dignified 
impudence of the Conductor never for 
a moment forsook him even at such a 
crisis. 

His large fat face, with its very regular 
and very handsome features, and its plaster 
of Paris hue, had a benign and almost 
regal expression. 

He seemed to fill the cab with the bulk 
of his tall form, and the expanse of his 
white Avaistcoat and light grey paletot ; and 
yet a thin, red-faced, black-whiskered police- 
man was wedged tightly in on either side 



144 ACQUITTED. 



of him. He had snatched up his cheque- 
book and a bag of biscuits, and as he never 
went more than a quarter of an hour with- 
out refreshment, he munched the biscuits, 
and offered some to the policemen with 
the air of a monarch. 

Before he drove off he recognised Paul — 
smiled condescendingly, waved his white 
fat hand, and called out, "All right, Mr. 
Penryn. Come and see me in Whitecross 
Street. You'll be sure not to find me out. 
Go on with the tale — I shall be all right in 
a week, and the Cheapside will come out as 
usual." 

The Conductor was then conve3^ed to 
prison, and very soon having got through 
the Bankruptcy Court somehow, with a 
third-class certificate, he was reinstated in 
his office, calm and smiling as if nothing 
had happened. 

By this time Paul had sent in his second 
tale, but in compliance with the earnest 
entreaties of Mr. Pemberton, he had written 



ACQUITTED. 145 



to the Conductor declining to be bound to 
fcim in any way, and informing him that 

the editor of the quarterly had paid 

him twenty-five pounds for a review not 
exceeding twenty pages, and that he could 
not, therefore, in justice to himself, labour 
hard for a whole month for the sum of 
forty shillings. 

The Conductor was in a great rage. 
Paul's tales had been much admired, 
and had greatly increased the sale of the 
Cheapside. 

Foxwell took out his pocket-book, and 
jotted down the following menioran- 
<lum — 

" To tell Ferret to find out what review 

in the quarterly is written by Penryn, 

•and to get it well slashed in every paper 
we can influence. Ferret to abuse it whole- 
sale in the Cheapside^ the Penny Critic^ the 
Weekly Spy^ the Viper^ and the Backbiter'' 
And thus ended Paul's connexion with 
the Cheapside and its Conductor. 

VOL. ITI. 10 



U6 ACQUITTED. 



Paul had remarked that for some tim.e 
pa&t Mr. Cottrell had been rather cool in 
his manner, and had looked anxious and 
depressed. 

It was rumoured in the counting-house 
that Rhoda Cottrell was very ill. 

One day Paul was summoned to a 
private interview Avith Mr. Cottrell. 

The evening before, Mr. Cottrell, very- 
uneasy about his darling girl, who had 
retired very early, pleading a headache as 
an excuse, had entered his daughter's room 
to Avish her good night. 

He found her not undressed, lying on 
her bed. Her window open and the moon- 
light shining on her pale, wan face, wet 
and blistered with tears. 

"My darling," said her father, "how 
imprudent you are. The night is cold, 
and delicate as you are the night air may 
be very injurious to you. Why did not 
Martha close your shutters and draw the 
curtains ?" 



ACQUITTED. 147 



"She did, papa. I opened the wm- 
dow." 

" What for, my darling ?" 

'-' I wanted air, and I like to look at the 



moon." 



" I thought, my pet, you could not bear 
any light when you were in bed?" 

'* Ah ! formerly I could not, papa, but 
now I like the moonlight and hate the 
darkness." 

" But why do you not try to. go to sleep, 
my love?" 

" Because it is vain to try ; I cannot sleep, 
papa, and therefore I love the ' Sun of the 
sleepless.' " 

Mr. Cottrell sat down by his darling's 
bedside. 

He took her hand — it was very hot and 
dry. 

" Rhoda, my own and only darling,'^ he 
said, *^you are ill, and you are unhappy; 
tell me what you are fretting about. If it is 
in my power to ease your dear heart, my 

10—3 



148 ACQUITTED. 



child, I will make any, every sacrifice, 
only be open with your poor fond 
father." 

Rhoda turned her face to the wall, but 
left her hand in her father's. 

Mr. Cottrell continued, " You have re- 
fused Lord Snowdon's noble offer. Do you 
repent of having done so ? Have you 
changed your mind? If so it will not be 
impossible to recall him. ' 

" I would not recall him for the world, 
papa. I could never love or marry 
him." 

" Is there any one else you love, my 
Rhoda; any one else you could and would 
marry ?" 

Rhoda was silent. 

" Speak, my darling ; if there is, be it who 
it may, as I know you could never love an 
unworthy object, I would sacrifice my 
own ambition, my own wishes, everything 
to make you happy. Say, only say it is not 
that unprincipled idiot, Fisk !" 



ACQUITTED. 149 



" Fisk ! Oh, no, papa ! Do not think 
so meanly of me." 

^'Isit Brymer?" 

"No, nor 

"It cannot be Beagle?" 

"No: oh, no!" 

A light darted across Mr. Cottrell's 
brain. 

" Rhoda, darling, is it Paul Pen- 
ryn?" 

Rhoda burst into a passionate fit of 
weeping. 

"Rhoda," said her father, "I see it all 
now ; it is, it must be Paul Penryn. And 
doubtless he has been secretly trying to 
Avin your love. I had some fears of him, 
and — " 

" No, no, papa; he has done all he could 
to shun me ! It is true I do love him, 
but I am not at all sure he loves me. I 
am afraid he loves another; only he is so 
noble, so generous, so chivalrous, that it is 
possible — just possible — he may pretend 



150 ACQUITTED. 



indifFerence to me out of a sense of duty to 
you, and because I am an heiress ! I saw 
him once in company with a beautiful girl 
who looked so happy, I thought she must 
be Ms affianced; but although the thought 
has almost broken my jealous heart, it has 
occurred to me that after all they may not 
be lovers — that perhaps if it were not from 
the fear of your disapproval and. the horror 
of passing for a fortune-hunter, Paul might 
love me ! You know how good, how very 
good he is ! How gentlemanly, how well- 
born, and how superior in every way to all 
other young men ! Oh, papa ! his wife will 
be the proudest, the happiest of women ! — 
and the thought that is breaking my heart 
is, that perhaps, if he did not fear your op- 
position and resentment, and if I were not 
an heiress, Paul would love and propose to 
me." 

" Rhoda," said her father, " I own the 
great wish of my heart was to see you 
married to Lord Snowdon, but since that 



.iCQUITTED. 151 



cannot be, if Paul Penryn loves you I will 
not oppose your union. If he has no prior 
attachment and engagement, it is impossible 
he should not love j/ou^ my beautiful dar- 
ling! I will undertake to ascertain this 
important point without betraying your 
tenderness for him, or sacrificing your pride 
and delicacy in any way. If he is free, I 
Avill bring him down with me. He shall go 
to Paris with us, and your charms must do 
the rest. If he is attached to another, you 
in return for this great proof of my love, 
must promise to do your best to conquer a 
passion which in that case it would be 
wrong, weak, and degrading to cherish. Is 
this a compact, my darling? In any case 
we will take a foreign tour. 

" If Paul is free, he shall be of the party; 
if not, you must look upon him as another's 
and resolve not to break your own lieart 
and your poor old father s for one as good 
as married to another woman ! Do you 
promise this, my love ?" 



152 ACQUITTED. 



'• I do, my own kind, beloved papa," said 
Rlioda. " I have been very ungrateful to 
think so much of Paul and myself, and so- 
little of the best father in the Avorld !" 

''Good night, then, my treasure!" said 
old Cottrell. " And now undress and go* 
to bed; I will close your shutters and cur- 
tains. I shall look in again in half an hour. 
Let me find you comfortably in bed, and, if 
possible, fast asleep." 

It was in fulhlment of his promise to 
Rhoda that Mr. Cottrell sent for Paul into 
his private room the next morning. 

Mr. Cottrell, idolizing his only child as 
he did, and looking upon her as by far the 
most beautiful and engaging creature in the 
world, had, almost unconsciously to himself, 
dreaded in Paul Penryn a sort of detri- 
mental. 

Some meddling old cronies of his had 
hinted at the danger for his daughter of 
any intimacy with the interesting and 
handsome young clerk; and Mr. Cottrell^ 



ACQUITTED. 



while Avishing to be kind and hospitable to 
the son cf his old friend, had certainly failed 
to be either, from a sort of undefined fear 
that Paul might attempt to win the heart 
and hand which the father so longed to see 
bestowed on Lord SnoAvdon. 

Paul, engrossed by his work and his love 
for Mary Lynn, took very little heed of the 
restraint and coldness which had latterly 
characterized Mr. Cottrell's behaviour; but 
he could not be quite insensible to the 
change in his employer's manner ; and if he 
had been, Brymer would have enlightened 
him; for, having been very jealous of the 
favour j\L\ Cottrell had shown Paul, he was 
delighted to perceive and point out to the 
latter that " Mr. Cottrell was fighting con- 
foundedly shy of him." 

" The fact is," said Brymer, "he begins 
to suspect that you and Rhody are spoony 
on each other." 

" Then he suspects what is not at all the 
case," replied Paul, curtly. 



15^ ACQUITTED. 



" Tell that to the marines," retorted 
Brymer. 

Brymer was iiiucli annoyed, and Paul 
rather surprised, when on the morning after 
his interview with Rhoda, Mr. Cottrell 
came up to Paul in the office, shook him 
warmly by the hand, and asked him to 
come into his private room to lunch with 
him at one o'clock. . 

When Paul, in compliance with this in- 
vitation, repaired to Mr. Cottrell's sanctum, 
he found the latter pacing up and down 
the little room. 

Now that it was come to the point, 
Mr. Cottrell did not find it very easy 
to do what he had promised he 
would do. 

Paul was reserved, dignified, and cer- 
tainly the last person of whom Mr. Cot- 
trell would have liked to ask an idle or 
impertinent question. 

How then was he, without betraying 
Rhoda's secret, to ask Paul whether his 



ACQUITTED. 15; 



affections and his hand were or were not 
engaged ? 

For weeks he had been doing all he 
quietly could to keep Paul and Khoda 
apart, and now the dearest wish of his 
heart was to be able to take Paul down 
with him to The Larches that very day as 
Rhoda's intended. 

Mr. Cottrell was not a gentleman or a 
man of the world. He was a straightfor- 
ward honest man of business and a doting 
father, fearing (now he knew her secret) 
for his daughter's health and peace of 
mind. 

" How are you, Penryn?" he said, cor- 
dially shaking hands with Paul, although 
he had performed that ceremony when he 
saw him in the office. "" Pray be seated. 
Oblige me, my dear boy, by ringing for 
lunch. How's my old friend? Have you 
heard from him lately ? He must be rather 
lonely at the old Manor House all alone. 
Doesn't he ever advise you to marry, Paul, 



156 ACQUITTED. 



and talk of settling in or near London with 
you and your wife?" 

" Marry, sir," said Paul, laughing, " why 
I'm not of age.'' 

" What does that matter if you're in love 
with a pretty girl and a pretty girl's in love 
with you ! Eh, my boy ! you blush like a 
maid! I see I've hit the right nail on the 
head." 

^' Even if I were in love, and my passion 
were returned, how could I marry until 
I'm in circumstances to support a wife, 
su' r 

" But if the lady is rich enough to sup- 
port you ? — eh, Paul ? — doesn't that make 
it quite another thing?" 

" I know of no lady who would support 
me, sir." 

" Well, not exactly. You could always 
do a good deal for yourself. If the lady 
had a father in business, he could take you 
into partnership." 

Paul smiled sadly as he thought of being 



ACQUITTED. 157 



taken into partnership by Xatt Lynn the 
iisherman. 

" Come, Paul," said old Cottrell, '' I'm 
your father's old friend ; don't let's beat 
about the bush. I see how it is: you love 
my darling Rhoda — she loves you. Come 
down with me to-day to The Larches 
and pop the question. I'll take 3^ou 
into partnership as soon as you're of 
age, and we'll have my old friend up to 
the wedding, and he can live Avith you. 
We'll all live together at The Larches and 
make the old Manor House our country 
seat." 

"Alas, sir!" said Paul, "so liberal, so 
kind an offer deserves my utmost gratitude, 
and but for one insurmountable obstacle, I 
should accept it w^ith delight." 

" And what may that obstacle be?" cried 
old Cottrell, aghast, forgetting that he had 
promised Rhoda first to ascertain that Paul 
had no prior attachment. 

" I am devotedly attached to one 1 have 



158 ACQUITTED. 



known and loved from my childhood," said 
Paul. 

" Good heavens !" cried old Cottrell, " was 
ever anything so unfortunate ! And here, 
like a blundering old fool as I am, I have 
betrayed my poor darling's secret, and so 
sacrificed her delicacy and her dignity." 

" Oh, do not say that, sir !" cried Paul. 
" It was a noble, generous scheme of yours. 
Your beautiful and admirable daughter is 
in no way compromised by your having 
condescended to think of the son of your 
old friend as a fit suitor for her, in spite of 
his being in every way unworthy of so 
much excellence and beauty. Miss Cot- 
trell has never shown me the slightest pre- 
ference ; and even had I been heart-whole 
and fancy free, I should have thought it 
mean and ungrateful to avail myself of 
your hospitality to try to win the hand of 
your beautiful heiress, being, as I am, de- 
pendent on my own exertions for a liveli- 
hood." 



ACQUITTED. 15f> 



''Well, Paul," said Old Cottrell, much 
soothed by this judicious speech, '' I can 
only say that as far as I am concerned I 
should have been very glad, had you been 
disengaged, to have authorized you to woo 
and win my Rhoda. As you observe, after 
all, if she has never shown you the slightest 
preference, it might have come to nothing. 
She doesn't seem much disposed to marry. 
She has positively refused Lord Snow- 
don." 

"And yet,'' said Paul, "it is in the 
noble and aristocratic sphere into which he 
could introduce her that such an exquisitely 
beautiful and graceful creature ought to 
move. Miss Cottrell has youth, matchless 
beauty, every virtue and talent, and a 
noble fortune. Lord Snowdon has an 
ancient title, a fine fortune when the mort- 
gages are paid off. Beagle says, a high cha- 
racter, and I think he greatly admires and, 
as far as such a man can, loves your sweet 
Rhoda. Of course such a pearl of price is 



160 ACQUITTED. 



not to be had for the asking; but if I knew 
his lordship, I should advise him to per- 
severe." 

^' And that's the counsel I'll give him if 
I come across him," said old Cottrell. 
" Only, though he's very kind and easy in 
his manners with Rhoda, I never can feel 
at my ease with him, or get on with him. 
I suppose it's because he's a lord, and I'm a 
self-made man ! but he's got a cool stare 
that frightens me to death, though my^ 
little Rhoda soon makes him change it for 
a very meek loving look indeed. And 
now, my dear young friend, let me ask 
you, not in any spirit of idle curiosity, 
but in one of deep and true interest in 
3' our welfare; has your beloved the ad- 
vantages of birth, wealth, and station, and 
does my dear old friend approve of your 
choice?" 

" I hope he will do so one day," said 
Paul, with a deep sigh, '' but at present I 
have not ventured to mention my attach- 



ACQUITTED. 161 



ment to ni}^ father. Tlie girl I adore is of 
very low birth, and therefore, of course, 
penniless. She has no dowry but her 
rare and noble beauty, her virtues, 
lier intellect, and her heart! It must 
be a long, a very long engagement, I 
fear, but as Jacob served tAvice seven 
years for Eachel, so am I willing, 
so help me Heaven ! to serve twice 
seven years for mj^ angel of truth and 
beauty." 

" You're a noble hearted vouns: fellow, 
Paul !" said Mr. Cottrell, holding out his 
hand to Paul. " Let's drink this bottle of 
port to the health of your fair intended ; 
and if I can accelerate matters by adding 
to your income and your work here," he 
^aid, with a sly smile, "when matters are in 
a more forward state, Pll not be backward 
in helping you to an appointment, on the 
stipend of which it would not be imprudent 
to marry. And now, my dear boy, I must 

VOL. III. 11 



162 ACQUITTED. 



drive down to ' The Larches.* My darling, 
like her late poor dear mother, is very deli- 
cate. She has not been looking well lately. 
I fear I must take her abroad again. It's 
very inconvenient, with such a business to 
manage ; however^ it wont be so much so as 
it was before I had you, Paul, to trust to. 
If I must go, I shall leave you in supreme 
command, and that will be a pretty penny 
in your pocket. You'll keep all straight, I 
know." 

Paul had not the heart to say that it 
was possible he might be going abroad 
himself; and so they parted. 

And when Paul returned to the 
office, Brymer, full of jealous rage^ 
said — 

" I say, Penryn, you look as if old 
Cott had been giving you a wiggingv 
for so slily making up to pretty little 
Khodar 

" Do mind your own business, Mr. 
Brymer," said Paul, " and remember once 



ACQUITTED. 163 



for all, I have never had the slightest 
idea or intention of making up to Miss 
Cottrell!" 

''As I said before, tell that to the 
marines !" said Brymer, sotto voce. 



11-2 



164. ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER Xir. 

" Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle 

Are emblems of deeds that are done in that clime — 
Where the rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle, 
Xow melt into fondness, now madden to crime." 

Byron. 

ORD DERWENT was still detained 
at Altamount Castle. 

The old Earl, his father, Avho 
had had another fit, lay in a very precarious 
state — one in fact that threatened sudden 
dissolution at any time, but yet so strong 
was Lord Altamount's constitution, and so 
great his tenacity of life, that he lived on 
(if living it could be called), and in common 
decency his son could not leave him to the 
care of hirelings. 

Meanwhile, although Mary Lynn's situa- 
tion in Grosvenor Square w^as now, owing 



ACQUITTED. 165 



to the tyranny and ill-temper of Lady Der- 
went, almost untenable, she tried to endure 
all and keep her ground for the sake of 
Jasper, and in order not to add at such a 
time to Lord Derwent's trials. 

It was now time for those who Avere to 
winter in the South to set out. 

In a very short time it would be very 
cold and windy, and travelling would be 
very dangerous for Jasper. 

Lord Derwent, intensely anxious that his 
son should not lose what he considered his 
best chance, had made up liis mind to ask 
Paul to accompany Jasper as companion- 
tutor, and as he could not leave the dying 
Earl, and he did not know how ill Lady 
Dersvent was behaving and how wretched 
she made poor Jasper, he proposed that her 
ladyship should be of the party. 

Paul had not been much at Altamount 
House since Lady Derwent's arrival there. 
Her manner to him was so cold and insolent 
that he seldom staved more than a few 



166 ACQUITTED. 



minutes when he called, and often only in- 
quired at the door how Jasper was. 

One day, however, on going to Mr. 
Cottrell's warehouse, he found a letter from 
his employer. 

In this letter Mr. Cottrell said : — 

'^ My dear Paul, — I am so alarmed by 
the increasing ill health of my beloved 
Rhoda, that I have resolved on setting ojff 
at once with her to Paris. I leave the whole 
management of my very extensive business 
in your hands. / have entire confidence in 
you., and in no one else. 

^'You have often said that you had a 
great object in view, namely, that of amassing 
a thousand pounds by industry and self- 
denial. By devoting yourself heart and 
soul to my business while I am abroad, you 
will make a great stride towards that object. 
Your salary, as head and sole manager, will 
be 500/. per annum ; and on my return I 
shall hand you a present of 200/. That is, if 



ACQUITTED. 167 

I am, as I feel certain I sliall be, satisfied 
with your zeal, judgment, and devotion to 
my interests. As I know every moment to 
be precious, I shall not see you in Thames 
Street before I go. We start in an hour 
for Paris, via Newhaven and Dieppe. You 
Avill instal yourself in my private room, and, 
in fact, take my place in the bushiess. I 
have written to Beagle to tell him that I 
have appointed you sole manager in my 
iibsence. I am the more anxious to be off 
this afternoon, because it has come to my 
knowledge that Lord Snowdon is going to 
Newhaven by the same train, and on to 
Paris at once, and I have great hopes that 
he may renew his suit, and with better suc- 
cess ; at any rate, his agreeable society and 
his attachment to my darling would cheer 
her and be a great help to me. If you had 
not the best head and kindest heart I have 
met mth (in business), I could not trust 
one so young w^ith the management of such 
a business as mine. As it is, I have no 



168 ACQUITTED. 



fear, and leave you at once that full power 
which should always be given to those on 
whom we entail entire responsibility. 

" I shall write to you regularly, and 
expect that you will always answer by 
return. I am, my dear Paul, 

'' Your sincere friend, 

'' Colin Cottrell." 

Paul's heart sank within him at first when 
he read this letter. 

Alas! he had now no choice; and if 
Lord Derwent were to propose to him to 
accompany Jasper to the South, every feel- 
ing of duty, honour, and gratitude would 
compel him to give up so delightful an 
engagement. He must now forego the pre- 
sence of his beloved Mar}-, the pleasure of 
comforting and cheering Jasper Ardennes, 
the new delights of foreign travel, the sweet 
South, and all the varied beauties of that 
land of the sun, to devote himself to dry 
distasteful business in foii'^ry London ! KwA 



ACQUITTED. 16^ 



instead of beautiful Mentone, with her olive 
groves, her lemon and orange trees, her soft 
skies, her blue sea, her snowy alps, her fresh 
flowers, and her old ruins, Paul must 
drudge on in Thames Street all through 
the long dreary winter. 

" I would not have agreed to such a sacri- 
fice," he said to himself, " had he given me 
the option, but he is gone ; and unless I 
take his place his business will suffer." 

A little later, however, the thought 
suggested itself to Paul's mind that 
this distasteful and unwelcome arrange- 
ment would in reality greatly advance and 
accelerate the one great object of his life — 
the reinvestment of Ann Penryn's thousand 
pounds, the restoration of his father's peace ! 
The restoration of that sum which Sligo 
Downy had induced him to withdraw from 
the Three per Cents, would save his father 
from danger, disgrace, despair ! 

At the end of one year of the sakiry of 
five hundred pounds, added to a bonus of 



170 ACQUITTED. 



two hundred, together with what he had 
akeady amassed, and what he should have 
added by that thne to his present hoard, he 
should be able to put a thousand pounds 
into his father's hands, to invest it in the 
Three per Cents, for Ann Penryn's benefit. 
^' Alas ! I am very selfish and very ungrate- 
ful to murmur at this,'' said Paul to himself. 
"I ought to feel a glow of happiness, not 
a chill of disappointment, when I think that 
even for dear Mary's sake it is better as it 
is." 

Paul, anxious about Mary Lynn and 
Jasper Ardennes, called that very evening 
at Altamount House. 

He did not mean to go in, but while he 
was speaking to the porter. Lady Derwenfs 
own footman came down to say that her 
ladyship had given orders that if Mr. 
Penryn called, he was to be requested to 
walk up, as her ladyship had an impor- 
tant message for him from Lord Derwent. 

Paul ofuessed the nature of that mes- 



ACQUITTED. 171 



sage, and the word "Alas!" trembled 
on his lips as he entered the drawing- 
room. 

Lady Derwent was all smiles and com- 
pliments. She told Paul that Lord Derwent, 
unable to leave the Earl, his father, and 
anxious that Jasper's journey South should 
not be delayed any longer, had resolved on 
begging him to escort the party to Mentone ; 
that Lord Derwent had made the rate of 
remuneration the same which a friend of 
his was paying for the services of a com- 
panion-tutor for an invalid son, during a 
winter in Italy, namely, 200/. That in the 
iirst instance the party would only consist 
of herself, Jasper, Mr. Penryn, her maid, 
and her son's valet; but that, a little later, 
Lord Derwent would bring over Miss 
Osgood and her pupils. 

Paul at once explained how he was 
situated, and expressed his sincere regret 
that he could not, without sacrificing his 
duty and his honour, and committing a gross 



172 ACQUITTED. 

breacli of trust, abandon tlie post so gene- 
rously confided to him. 

"Dear me!" said her ladyship, "how 
very provoking. I don't think Lord Der- 
went will let us start if you cannot escort 
us, nor do I believe that Jasper will care to 

go. Dr. H says a little later would 

be ver}^ dangerous for my son to travel, 
and I do so long to see Mentone, and avoid 
the winter in England. I don't see why you 
should give up going with us for a Mr. Cot- 
trell and his odiousThames Street concerns.'^ 

" Mr. Penryn," said the feeble voice of 
Jasper, " I want to speak to you." 

" I will come to you directly, Mr. Jasper 
Ardennes," said Paul. 

" Do reconsider this matter, Mr. Penryn," 
said Lady Derwent. 

"Alas! I cannot do that," said Paul. "I 
am in honour bound not to leave London 
till Mr. Cottrell returns. But surely Mr. 
Jasper Ardennes, with your ladyship and 
IMiss Mary Lynn " 



ACQUITTED. 173 



"Oh, as to Lynn," said Lady Derwent, 
" she is gone to Pen combe." 

"Gone! When did she ^^o?" 

" She went this morning. She had in- 
tended not starting; till this evenino-. Xow 
I am here she is of no manner of use to my 
son, and she is very obnoxious to me. I 
hate hangers-on of that kind, people who 
set up for saints and often turn out great 
sinners. I am sure she does my son no 
good, singing hymns and psalms to him, 
and reading from books that depress him — 
books about death and immortality. Well, 
I told her my opinion, and she had fixed to 
go this evening; but early this morning 
came a telegram, saying her mother (an old 
fishwoman) was not expected to live ; and 
so she set off at once, and I'm very tiiankful 
she's gone, for I'm sure she's the worst 
person in the world to be with my son ; and 
she has got such an influence over him that 
his grief at parting from her was such, I 
feared hed break a blood-vessel. Had I 



174 ACQUITTED. 



been brought in dead and laid at his feet 
he couldn't have given way to a more 
violent grief." 

"■ Miss Lynn has nursed Mr. Jasper Ar- 
dennes so devotedly," said Paul, " I do not 
wonder he cannot bear to part from her.'' 

" He has nothing to regret since I have 
taken her place," said Lady Derwent, haugh- 
tily. And seeing Paul was not to be shaken 
in his resolution, she walked sullenly away, 
and he hastened to Jasper's couch. 

Jasper was looking very ill : his cheeks 
very flushed; he seemed much agitated, 
and he had evidently been weeping bit- 
terly. 

"Oh, my dear friend!" he said, holding 
out his thin and burning hand to Paul. " I 
am so wretched, so utterly wretched ! Mary 
is gone ! I do not complain of her going, 
since it seems her mother is dangerously 
ill ; but before she received a telegram from 
her home, my mother had so wronged, out- 
raged, and insulted her, that she had told 



ACQUITTED. 175- 



me she could not stay; and with Mary- 
all my comfort is gone ! My mother means 
well, and wishes to be an attentive nurse, 
but she has none of Mary's soft, gentle 
ways. She is not accustomed to a sick 
room — she is so loud, so harsh, so over- 
bearing and argumentative. Oh, Paul, my 
dear friend, unless you can come abroad 
with us, I would rather not go; I would 
rather stay and die in England." 

It was very painful to Paul to be obliged 
to explain that his going was an impos- 
sibility. 

Jasper sighed deeply. 

'^ My mother talks of getting me a regular 
nurse — a Mrs. Gamp or a Betsy Prig, no 
doubt ! — and she is so resolute and so harsh, 
I have little hope she will not do it. Fancy, 
dear Paul, to have driven that angel Mary 
Lynn from my side, and then to establish 
there some old, drinking, snuif-taking cunt, 
who Avill snore all night, and have me com- 
pletely in her power when once we are 



17G ACQUITTED. 



abroad ! Well, there's one comfort, I shan't 
live long now; and if I had been able to 
wander in the South with you and Mary I 
thhik I might have recovered." 

Paul vainly tried to comfort poor Jasper. 
He remained with him until Lady Derwent 
came in and said, — 

'' Jasper, you must not talk any more. 
Indeed, I've rung for James to help you to 
bed." 

Paul upon this started up and took leave 
of his hapless friend and his harsh, haughty, 
odious mother. 

-» * * * 

Jasper wrote a few trembling lines to his 
father, complaining of his increased suffer- 
ings, the departure of Mary Lynn, Lady 
Derwent's conduct to that sweet girl, and 
her unbearable tyranny over himself 

This letter Lady Derwent intercepted. 
She was very anxious to get Jasper abroad 
as an excuse for getting to the South her- 
self. 



ACQUITTED. 177 



Being almost without money, and 
certain Lord Derwent would not send her 
any considerable sum, she pledged, through 
her maid — a crafty, experienced Avoman, 
who suggested this expedient — the splendid 
family diamonds. She hired a strong, mas- 
culine woman as nurse — her abigail's mother, 
a large-boned, coarse-featured creature, Avho 
had walked the hospitals — and with one 
footman, (her own,) she set off with poor 
Jasper for Paris. 

She dismissed Jasper's own valet, re- 
marking, with as little tact as feeling, that 
in his state a valet was a useless expense, 
since a nurse could do all that he required ! 

One evening Paul, calling at Altamount 
House to inquire after Jasper's health, 
heard to his dismay and distress that Lady 
Derwent had set off with hiin for the Con- 
tinent. 

The housemaid who answered Paul's 
inquiries added, with tears in her eyes, 
*' Poor dear Master Jasper I He was so 

VOL. III. 1 2 



178 ACQUITTED. 



unwilling to go, and looked so bad, and he 
Avished me good-bye, and said — ' It's good- 
bye for ever, Eacliel; you'll never hear my 
voice again, though, perhaps, you may see 
my face !' He gave me a sovereign,"' added 
Rachel; ''for he was always so generous 
and kind, and he well knew I'd 20 throuojh 
fire and water to serve him ! He never was so 
Avell after my lady, his ma, came to town. 
She did all for the best, no doubt; but she 
is too sharp and sudden in her ways; and as 
for Switch, her lad3^'s-maid, and that terrible 
Miss Switch's old mother, I could not abide 
'em, and no more couldn't Mr. Jasper ; and 
then my lady wouldn't let him have his own 
valet, James. James is such a handy, good- 
hearted young man, who's been with him 
since his boyhood. However, James is 
gone down to my lord to let him know the 
rights of all this ! and he told me, as sure 
as his name's Jeremiah James, as soon as 
my lord hears of m^^ lady's goings on, if he 
can t set off himself arter her, he'll send 



ACQUITTED. 179 



me, with orders tfiat no one else is to go 
anigh ]\Iaster Jasper unless he orders 'em to 
Avait on him ! Oh, James thinks there'll be a 
regular blow-up when my lord hears of my 
lady's hiring that horrid old Mother Switch 
to nurse Mr. Jasper against his will, poor 
dear ! Mr. Jasper left his kind love for 
3'ou, sir, in case you called, and he begged 
you'd write to him — Post-office, Mentone." 
Paul felt much distressed at tliis account 
of Lady Derwent's odious conduct and poor 
suiFering Jasper's miserable position; but 
he hoped Lord Derwent would be able to 
set off at once to rejoin his son — perhaps 
with Miss Osgood, the little girls, Mary 
Lynn, and James — and that he would send 
Lady Derwent and the SAvitches — mother 
and daughter — back to England. 



12—2 



180 ACQUITTED. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

" Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased ; 
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow ; 
Eaze out the written troubles of the brain'; 
And, with some sweet oblivious antidote, 
Cleanse the stuff 'd bosom of that perilous stuff. 
Which weighs upon the heart ?" 

S/iaksjoeare. 

ARY found poor Mrs. Lynn very 
ill, but worse in mind than in 
body. 
She was worn to a skeleton, and the vil- 
lasre doctor said she seemed to him to be 
labourin^: under that sort of melancholia 
which arises from what the country people 
call " having something on the mind." 

Rosy, who was grown a very beautiful 
and useful girl, had nursed her mother with 
devoted affection; but things had gone very 




ACQUITTED. 181 



badly of late in the humble home of the 
Lynns. 

Besides the breaking of a Launceston 
Bank, in which Xatt's savings were placed, 
he had lost his best boat on a stormy night 
at sea, and the cattle plague had carried off 
all his cows. 

These losses had greatly affected the 
mind of poor Polly Lynn, his wife, and by 
for ever brooding over them, she had 
brought on a sort of low nervous fever, 
which in all probability would carry her to 
the grave. 

The language of this poor, uneducated 
Cornish woman, under the influence of this 
species of melancholy monomania, was often 
poetical and even sublime. 

The doctor had warned her husband and 
Rosa that she was exactly in that morbid 
state in which so many acts of self-destruc- 
tion are committed, and he urged them 
never to leave her alone, and to watch her 
<:losely. 



182 ACQUITTED. 



"Polly Lynn," as she was commonly 
called, had been very anxious to see Mary ; 
but when Mary was by her bedside her 
conduct was strange, fitful, and charac- 
teristic of the passionate caprice of incipient 
insanity ! 

When first Mary entered the little low- 
pitched, dark room in which Mrs. Lynn 
was sitting by a peat fire, in an old 
arm-chair, and propped up by pillows, she 
held out her thin arms to the elegant and: 
stately girl, who — in spite of her silk robe 
and delicate breeding, her finished educa- 
tion and thoroughbred air — rushed to 
the chair in which Polly Lynn was propped 
up, and falling on her knees on that rough 
brick floor, buried her face in her mother's 
lap, and, weeping, said, — 

" Oh, mother — dear, kind mother ! I had 
no idea you were f^o ill. Why — oh why 
did you not send for me before ? Kiss me, 
dear, dear mother. Are you not glad to 
see your own Mary, your own first-born ? 



ACQUITTED. 18:^ 



Mother does not seem to know me, Rosy," 
she added, rising and sadly wiping away 
her tears. 

" Does that lady look like my first-born ?" 
cried Polly Lynn, in a sharp, excited voice. 
"" Look at that pale queen compared with 
that fresh wildflower, Rosy. Do they look 
like sisters'^ This is a poor place for you, 
Lady Mary !" she added. " You were not 
made for turf fires and brick floors ! You've 
been wronged — cruel wronged. Maybe, if 
others had done their duty by thee thou'dst 
be no half-and-half companion, but a car- 
riage lady thyself!*' 

"Mother," said ^lary, again kneeling b}- 
her mother's side, " don't talk so wildly. 
You know I was born in this dear cot, and 
that it was your wish rather than mine 
that I should go to the Castle and be edu- 
cated and trained to be companion-govern- 
ness to the young ladies ; but if I am 
dressed like a lady, mother, and if I talk 
like one, I am at heart unchanged. I am 



18-i ACQUITTED. 



your own iirst-born Mary Lynn, and I 
cannot bear you to treat me like a stranger 
and a lady. I am come home to nurse 
you — to wait on you — to do your bidding, 
as when I was your little Polly, and you 
used to love me so." 

" Hear me ! — hear me^ Rosy !" said the 
poor invalid. " Look at those white hands 
and that silk gown : they don't seem tit for 
waiting on a poor fishwife. Oh ! oh !" she 
cried, throwing her arms wildly up, " take 
her away ! the sight of her drives me mad ! 
But for her, I'd never have done the thing 
that was wrong. It wasn't Natt's fault. 
The fit! the fit! Rosy, the fit's coming 
on!" 

Rosy rushed to her mother, who, with a 
loud scream, went off into an epileptic 
fit. 

Mary, in spite of her mother's agony in 
her presence (an agony that generally ended 
in a fit), did her utmost to help Rosy to 
nurse the poor sufferer. 



ACQUITTED. 185 

She would sit behind a screen to watch 
her, and wait upon her during the night, 
while Kosy got a few hours' rest, and while 
Polly Lynn, under the influence of a strong 
sedative, was unconscious whose hand 
smoothed her pillow and administered her 
medicine, her jelly, or her broth. 

Xatt Lynn, much altered and a good 
deal broken down, was yet strong as ever 
in his trust in God. He absented himself a 
good deal fishing, and this was a time 
when a brave and skilful fisherman could 
earn a good deal. 

Mary had been up to the Castle to see 
Miss Oso^ood and the voun": ladies. 

She had also seen Lord Derwent, who 
^rew livid with rao-e and veno;eance when 
he, by close cross-examination, elicited that 
Lady Derwent had been very insulting to 
Mary Lynn. 

He said to ^lary — 

" Lady Derwent knows I cannot leave 
this place. The doctors say the Earl cannot 



186 ACQUITTED. 



live a week longer, and to leave him alone 
at sucli a time would make me the talk and 
wonder of the world; else she should not 
be a day longer with my beloved Jasper to 
torment him by her ill-tempers, her jea- 
lousy, and her tyranny. I do hope, my 
dear Miss Lynn, that as soon as your 
mother can spare you, you will return to 
poor Jasper. There is no one can be any- 
thing like the comfort and solace you are 
to that angel suiferer." 

Mary did not tell Lord Derwent that she 
felt she could never again expose herself ta 
Lady Derwent's insults and tyranny, unless 
she were supported and protected by his 
lordship or Miss Osgood. She merely said 
that her mother was in a very precarious 
state ; and that while she was so, of course 
duty and affection would prevent her 
leaving her. 

Lord Derwent was about to renew his 
somewhat selfish argument, when he was 
summoned to the Earl's room. 



ACQUITTED. 187 



The Earl was very much worse, and 
Mary — who wished and hoped by roaming 
along the sands to meet with her dear 
friend, "the Veiled Lady," took her leave. 

Miss Osgood, as she embraced Mary, told 
her that from what the doctors said the 
poor old Earl's life was drawing rapidly to 
a close. Miss Osgood, who had lived so 
long at the Castle, was very pale and weep- 
ing bitterly, and as Mary took her leave 
she saw many of the household looking 
timid and pale. The men were talking 
together in low and sad voices, and the 
maids were sobbing. 

Mary had seen but little of the Earl, but 
in their occasional intercourse he had always 
been kind and courteous ; and as she looked 
up at the curtained windows of his room, 
she, too, heaved a sigh, and wiped away a 
tear! 

* re r!:- * 

Mary Lynn was not disappointed in her 
expectation. 



ISS ACQUITTED. 



In her ramble by the sea and among the 
rocks she met with Minna, the " Veiled 
Lady." 

Mary Lynn had always felt a strange, 
mysterious, and passionate interest in Minna, 
and Minna returned Mary's tenderness with 
an affection not less lively, and perhaps 
more intense. 

Little did they guess the real source of 
the attachment that bound their hearts 
together ! 

Mary Lynn told her kind friend the 
'' Veiled Lady," of her visit to the Castle, 
and of the imminent peril of the old 
Earl. 

She perceived, but did not in the least 
suspect why her still lovel}' friend's cheek 
flushed crimson and then became ghastly 
pale, nor did she guess why she trembled 
and clasped her hands as in prayer. 

Mary ventured to say — 

" Do you know the Earl, dear 
friend ?' 



ACQUITTED. 189 



"Slightly," said Minna; "but the near 
approach of death to one so important in 
the village, and of whom one has always 
heard so much, necessarily agitates 
one! Tell me," she added, " tell me, what 
you think of this poor young man, Jasper 
Ardennes, as they call Mm V 

"As they call him now," said ^lary; 
" but as soon as the Earl dies, Lord Derwent 
will be Earl of Altamount, and Jasper 
Ardennes, his only son, will be Lord 
Derwent!" 

"Will he?" said ]\Iinna, with a strange 
smile. 

" Of course he Avill," said Marj , 
astonished. 

" We shall see," said Minna. " ' There's 
many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip,' as 
my old Dorcas says. But let us talk of 
other things, Mary. Your own dear 
mother, how is she?" 

"Alas! I know not how to answer that 
question. I fear she is very ill in body, for 



190 ACQUITTED. 



she is wasted to a shadow; but her mind 
seems more affected still. She could not 
rest till I came — at least so Kosy tells me; 
and when I am away she is always asking 
for me, but when I approach her she drives 
me from her, calls me Lady Mary, and says 
I am too grand and too dainty for her poor 
cot. 

" I can only suppose that in her heart 
vshe did not like ray going to the Castle; 
and yet she it was who most advocated my 
going. Sometimes she tells me I ought to 
be lady of the Castle, not a poor dependant 
there. 1 do not recognise my poor dear 
mother who used to talk so simply and yet 
so sensibly. She rambles on in such fine 
language, about Courts and jewels, calls me 
a hot-house rose, and sister a sweet wild 
rose; and, in fact, I often fear, dear, dear 
mother is going mad !" 

'' These are sad times, love," said Minna. 
"The Earl dying; poor Mr. Penryu so ill 



ACQUITTED. 191 



that old Patience, I hear, has sent for 
Paul." 

'' Sent for Master Paul !" said Mary, 
blushing crimson. 

"Of course; what else could the old 
woman do? Mr. Penryn has long been in 
ii low, moping way; and last week some 
burglars got in and carried away some 
money which old Patience had in her keep- 
ing, and which she kept hidden up in a hole 
in the kitchen chimney. The ^\Tetches 
came down the broad old chimney and took 
it away : it was in an old pewter box. 
It seems the loss of this sum has worked on 
Mr. Penryn's mind. My father has been 
to see him, to try, as his minister, to rouse 
and comfort him, but he could not get him 
to answer any of his questions, nor 
induce him to take any interest in what he 
said." 

" These are indeed sad times for Pen- 
cbmbe," said Mary. " The Earl dying, Mr. 



192 ACQUITTED. 



Penryn so bad, and poor dear mother so ill 
in body and mind." 

Mary, who was sitting on a fragment 
of rock by Minna's side, rested her head 
on her friend's bosom and wept bit- 
terly. 

" Yon are worn ont with night-watch - 
ing, my dear Mary," said Minna. " You 
must take more air and exercise, or you too 
Avill be laid up. Latterly I have been in 
the habit of takino- an evenino^ row or sail 
when the weather is fine and the sea calm. 
It refreshes me and does me so much good. 
I must get you to come with me. If it is 
pleasant weatlier to-morrow evening, will 
you come for an hour or two, from six to 
eight ? If so, meet me here, and we will go 
together." 

" I will do so with pleasure," said 
Mary. 

" At that time father and Rosy are with 
mother, and I can well be spared." 

'• Good night then, dear Mary," said 



ACQUITTED. 193 



Minna. "We shall meet to-morrow even- 



ing." 



Minna hurried back to the Vicarage, and 
]\Iary made the best of her way home to her 
father's cottage. 



VOL. III. 13 



194 ACQUITTED. 



CHAPTER XIT. 

Oh, it is monstrous, monstrous ! 
Methought the billows spoke and told me of it ; 
The winds did sing it to me, and the thunder, 
That deep and dreadful organ-pipe, pronounced 
The name of * * * *." 

S/iaks^eare. 




|T was as Minna had said, old Pa- 
tience had telegraphed for Paul to 
come home immediately. 
She did not say that her master was 
dangerously ill, but she said Mr. Paul 
must not lose a moment in setting off. 

Luckily, Paul received this telegram on 
Saturday after the counting-house was 
closed for the half-holiday. 

He had then Sunday at his disposal, and 
in case of any inevitable dela}^ he left full 
directions for Mr. Beag-le. 



ACQUITTED. 195 



The fact was, Mr. Penryn had never 
recovered his health and spirits, and the 
thought of his fault, a fault which his 
morbid fancy magnified into a crime, 
namely, the withdrawal from the Three per 
Cents, of his niece's thousand pounds and 
the loss of that sum in Sligo Downy's 
bubble speculation, haunted him night and 
day. 

Still it was a comfort to him to think 
that old Patience's savings would enable 
him to pay the Christmas dividend, and 
perhaps the next midsummer one too ; and. 
with the love of " putting off the evil day," 
which is characteristic of such procrasti- 
nating natures as Mr. Penryn's, and that 
vague trust in the future and hope of 
something turning up, also peculiar to such 
characters, he had kept his mind tolerably 
quiet, and had not given way to de- 
spair. 

But when old Patience's savings were 
stolen, Mr. Penryn's horror at the idea of 

13—2 



196 ACQUITTED. 



not being able to send Ann lier Christmas 
dividend, his anguish of mind, his grief, 
terror and remorse, threw him into a state 
of mental anguish that seriously affected his 
health. Old Patience, who watched him 
closely, saw in him symptoms of melan- 
choly madness which alarmed the faithful 
old w^oman, and she began to ask herself 
whether it was not her duty to send to Mr. 
Paul. 

One day Mr. Penryn went to Penzance, 
and by dint of watching old Patience dis- 
covered that he had brought back with him 
two small phials. He hid them in his 
dressing-table drawer, but old Patience 
found them, and discovered that they Avere 
from two different chemists, and that each 
was labelled " Poison." 

They were in fact filled with mor- 
phia. 

Old Patience saw that Mr. Penryn had 
opened them, and she supposed that he had 
put them there in order to have them 



ACQUITTED. 197 



ready for night, when he probably meant 
to swallow the contents of both phials. 

Old Patience poured the poison away 
and filled up the phials with some 
cough mixture she had by her of the same 
colour. 

Mr. Penryn spent the whole evening in 
writing to Paul. He went to bed at mid- 
night, and beside himself with misery, 
remorse, and terror, he drank off the con- 
tents of the two phials, and laid himself 
down on his bed, as he thought, to die. 

But old Patience had not only replaced 
the morphia by an innocuous liquid, but 
she had telegraphed for Paul ; and on Sun- 
day evening, whilst Mr. Penryn lay awaiting 
death, and wondering why the last sleep 
did not steal over his senses, Paul was 
drawing near the old Manor House, bring- 
ing hope, help, life to his hapless father. 

Perhaps no one, however miserable, can 
without horror and remorse await the issue 
of poison self administered. 



198 ACQUITTED. 



Mr. Penryn, now that he believed his 
doom sealed, was in an agony of terror and 
despair. 

The fatal drug taken, and his life as he 
believed sacrificed, all for which he had 
committed this heinous crime dwindled 
into insignificance. 

What was Ann Penryn's thousand 
pounds compared to his immortal soul? 
wdiat would be Paul's agony? what his 
own eternity of punishment? In a frenzy 
of terror and shame that brought out large 
drops of perspiration on his forehead, he rang 
the bell, resolved to tell old Patience what 
he had done, and determined to have a 
doctor sent for, and every eifort to save his 
life resorted to. 

When Mr. Penryn's bell rang, Patience 
was just telling Paul what she had 
done to defeat her master's dreadful pur- 
pose. 

"Go to my father. Patience," said Paul. 
^'If, as is probable, he repents of his rash deed 



ACQUITTED. 199 



and now in terror and despair wishes to be 
saved if not too late, tell liim how you have 
acted. I would spare him the humiliation 
of confessing his rash act before me. If 
he does repent, when he knows he is safe 
tell him I am come. I think when he hears 
what I have to tell him he will not wish to 
leave this world, and will soon be his own 
dear self again." 

Five minutes later ]\lr. Fenryn, who had 
not undressed liimself the night before, 
came down stairs, the ghost of his former 
self. 

Paul rushed forward and caught the 
wan shadowy form of the old man in his 
arms; The father sank apparently lifeless 
on the son's breast. 

" Patty," cried Paul, in wild alarm, as 
lie lifted the wasted form and laid it on 
the sofa. " Oh, Patty, look at my 
father!" 

" Don't be afeard. Master Paul, master's 
often took like that. He's only fainted. 



200 ACQUITTED. 



I'll get the hartshorn; he'll be all right 
soon." 

^ if^ "^ ^ 

That evening a bright fire blazed in the 
hall grate. The father and son supped 
cheerfully together on a table Patience had 
drawn up to the fireplace. 

Paul revealed to his father all his plans, 
all his hopes, modestly told him how 
hard he had worked, how closely he had 
economized, and finally produced the box 
in which his savings were stored. 

'' Another year, dear father," he said, 
"of labour and self-denial, if my good 
fortune does not desert me, will enable me 
to place in your hands the sum of a thousand 
pounds." 

Mr. Penryn started. 

" Paul, my own dear son," he gasped 
out, " how did you know that " 

He covered his face with his hands, and 
burst into tears. 



ACQUITTED. 201 



'' Father," said Paul, " listen, and I will 
tell you." 

He then related to Mr. Penryn every- 
thing connected with that mistake about 
the letters of Sligo Downy and Mr. Cot- 
trell, through which Paul had become 
acquainted with his father's secret. 

How the father blessed that good son ! 
and how amply was the son repaid for all 
his labour and self-denial when he saw the 
serene light of happiness beam once more in 
the eyes that had of late looked alternately 
dull with pain and wild with despair. Those 
eyes which as far back as his memory could 
travel had always beamed so kindly on 
him. 

'' Paul," said Mr. Penryn, solemnly, " I 
thank God for the great blessing of such a 
son, and I beg you, my dear boy, to pray 
this night to your Father in Heaven that 
your only earthly parent may be forgiven 
the intention of committing the only sin 



202 ACQUITTED. 



that admits of no pardon, since it is the only 
one that cannot be repented of. My own 
prayers for pardon will be offered up morn- 
ing, noon, and night while I live. Let 
yours be added to mine, Paul, and I may 
yet be pardoned." 

Paul did not question his father as to his 
meaning, nor did he appear to know of 
what he had done. 

He said, " I do pray fervently night and 
morning that God will bless, protect, and 
prosper you, dear father. I will now add 
to that petition one that he will pardon 
you. 

Paul had not spoken to his father of his 
love for Mary Lynn and his fixed determina- 
tion to make her his wife as soon as he 
could offer her a comfortable home. 

He did not like to damp his father's joy 
bv a revelation which he felt must in the 
first instance be distasteful to the aristo- 
cratic prejudices of a Penryn of Penryn; 
but he did resolve to try to see Mary the 



ACQUITTED. 203 



next day, and he made up liis mind to 
tell her frankly how truly he loved her, and 
to implore her if she reciprocated that af- 
fection to promise, that when he could offer 
lier a home she would become his wife. 

" She will then have a happy future be- 
fore her," he said, *' and she will bear up 
for jny sake even if her own poor mother 
dies and Lady Derwent makes it impossible 
for her to live at the Castle." 



204 ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER XY. 

" You the pilgrim sad and lonely, 
In your dark and wintry day, 
Oh ! for it is He wlio only 
Can console you on your way. 

Trust ill God." 

SOLEMN stillness reigned in the 

eliamber of the twelfth Earl of Al- 

tamount. 

It was bright noon without, but a soft 

twilight alone reigned in the darkened room 

of disease and fast approaching death. 

A small, pale, wasted old man lay in a 
large four-post bed, propped up by pillows, 
and his features drawn aside and distorted 
by paralysis. 

The pillars of the bedstead were formed 
of the images, carved in old oak, of two 
Saracens — his supporters ; and the crimson 



ACQUITTED. 205 



velvet hano^ino-s and tester frins^ed with 
gold were surmounted by an earl's 
coronet. 

The doctor had just left the Castle, and 
at this moment there was no one in the 
room but a portly old nurse of the Gamp 
school, who sat by the Earl's bedside, her 
n:iind busy with her '' perquisites," and the 
probable profits to be derived from tlie 
Earl's death and funeral. 

On this day the physicians had held 
theh^ last consultation. 

They had told Lord Derwent that not 
only there was no hope of any improve- 
ment, but that the Earl, in all probability, 
could not live throuo-h the nio^ht. 

Lord Derwent, worn out with watching, 
had resolved — as he told the nurse — to 
take a turn in the Park, " as his head 
ached, and his strength began to fail." He 
had told her that he should not be absent 
more than half an hour; and as he glanced 
at the Earl, his father, Avhose stertorous 



206 ACQUITTED. 



breathing and comatose sleep betokened 
approaching dissolution, he said, " You 
think I may venture, nurse ? There'll be 
no change just yet?" 

" No, my lord, not for hours," she 
replied. 

She had her oAvn base reasons for wishing 
to have the coast clear. 

There were drawers to be examined 
and pillaged, and a purse on a toilet-table 
to be lightened. 

Lord Derwent left the room slowly and 
mournfully. 

The nurse watched from the window till 
she saw him in the avenue; then she 
locked the door, and opened the drawers. 
Alas ! that at such a time — almost in the 
actual presence of Death — this world, and 
its vile passions, aims, and vices should 
have been uppermost in the thoughts of the 
nobleman and the nurse ! 

As soon as Lord Derwent was at the end 
of the avenue, he changed his slow step 



ACQUITTED. 207 



and mournful air for a brisk pace and eager, 
hopeful manner. 

" There is not a moment to be lost," he 
said to himself. " The last telegram 
announces a great improvement in Jasper. 
He will live, and Minna must be removed 
ere my father dies." 

So saying, he rushed on like one 
pursued. 

After hurrying about the rocks for some 
time, as if anxiously looking out for some 
one, Lord Derwent took out a small silver 
whistle. 

He put it to his lips. 

In answer to its shrill sound came one 
somewhat similar from a cave a little way 
off. 

Thither Lord Derwent bent his steps. 

In the innermost recess of that ca\ern he 
found Dan Devrill. 

• " My father is dying fast," said Lord 
Derwent, '' and I must hurry back to the 
Castle. AYhat have you done? As soon as 



208 ACQUITTED. 



the Earl's death is known she will proclaim 
our secret marriage. She must be safe off 
and far away before the passing-bell tolls." 

"Give me fall power to act for the best, 
my lord," said Dan Devrill, " and never 
shall word or claim of hers disgrace your 

noble son. Lady D has engaged 

Kit's boat to take her for a sail this very 
evening. Oh, my lord, be advised. I've 
drugged Kit's liquor, and shall take his 
place; let the boat capsize out at sea. 
Such accidents often happen." 

" No, Dan Devrill — or rather devil. I will 
7iot take her life. Get her safely over to 
Rotterdam, and consign her to the care of 
Vaneck, and two thousand pounds are 
yours. And now I have not another 
moment to stay. !^[eet me here this day 
week to receive your reward." 

Lord Derwent hurried away. 

" I'll go a shorter way to work than that, 
my fine lord," said Dan to himself. " The 
boat shall capsize (accidentally, of course). 



ACQUITTED. 209 



I can save myself; but Minna, Lady 
Derwent, shall go to the bottom. My lord 
will be glad enough to hear she's done 
for, as long as he thinks it were Pro- 
vidence as cut her off, and not Dan 
Devrill ; and as he'll be in my power for 
ever a'ter this, he nmst not only come down 
with the two thousand, but be prepared to 
fork out 'ansome, whenever it's my will and 
pleasure to apply." 



VOL. III. 14 



210 ACQUITTED. 




CHAPTER XVI. 

All me methought what pain it was to drown." 

Skakspeare. 

AUL and Mary had met once more 
as in the olden time. 

They had roamed together among 
the rocks; they had sat down by the sea, 
and Paul had opened his heart to the 
'^ maiden of his bosom." He had won from 
her a confession of reciprocal love, and a 
promise to be his, as soon as he could — with 
his father's consent — offer her his hand, 
his heart, and a home. 

Paul had resolved to stay one day longer 
in the to him enchanted palace of Love 
and Hope. He had written to Beagle, 
givmg him full directions; and he had 



ACQUITTED. 211 



promised Mary to see her for a few minutes, 
at her garden gate in the sweet moonlight, 
on her return from her sail with her friend 
the " Veiled Lady." " I would accompany 
you, my own affianced darling," he whis- 
pered, as he held her to his true heart in a 
parting embrace, "but I see my poor 
father cannot bear me to leave him, and is 
looking forward with such delight to our 
dining together to-day, I could not bear 
to disappoint him ; but while he takes his 
afternoon nap I will run over here to say 
farewell to my idol, my love, my affianced 
wife !" 



Dan Devrill's face was not very well 
known to Minna, and he had disguised him- 
self so cleverly that when he appeared in 
tiie boat, and said that as Kit was taken 
bad, all of a sudden, he had agreed to take 
the ladies for a sail, neither Mary nor 
her friend had the slightest suspicion of his 

14 — 2 



212 ACQUITTED. 



identity with the Dan Devrill they both 
knew to be a reprobate. 

It was a lovely evening, with just breeze 
enough to freshen the soft balmy air, and 
fill the little sails. 

Both Mary and her friend were silent ! 

Minna was thinking, as they glided so 
lightly over the azure ripples of that sunlit 
sea, of that night of storm and shipwreck 
and horror when the fierce, foaming, crested 
waves had torn her darling child irom her 
arms ! 

Minna knew that the old Earl of Alta- 
mount was on his deathbed ! 

She knew that the hour she had so longed 
for was at hand. The hour when in the 
face of the whole world she could prove 
herself a wedded wife, and be clasped to a 
father's proud heart, as one who not only 
had brought no blot on a time-honoured 
race, but had linked — as other daughters 
of her house had done of yore — the name 
of Trelawny with that of Ardennes. And 



ACQUITTED. 213 



now — now that the time is at hand, the 
■childless woman thinks of the agony, the 
shame, the despair of that proud father, 
her cruel destroyer. And she asks her 
woman-heart m its sublime forgiveness and 
self-abnegation, " Shall I, by proclaiming 
niv own ri2:hts destroy the son he so loves? 
If my child had lived, my path of duty 
were clear ! I could not, would not sacri- 
fice my child and her interests, her future ! 
but my own I Oh Father in Heaven, guide 
and enlighten me! Alas! if I disappoint 
his hopes, my own father will never raise his 
head, never smile again. He will go to 
his grave believing that his only child has 
brought dishonour to his name!" 

AYhile Minna pondered thus and was 
still, Mary was silent too, but hers was 
the silence of rapture, of ecstasy, of a bliss 
too great for utterance. 

She still felt on her lips the pressure of 
Paul's first kiss of love. 

Her cheek still glowed with surprise and 



214 ACQUITTED. 



passionate tenderness and joy ineffable, 
and her bosom bounded and throbbed as 
it had done, when, for one dear delicious 
moment, his face had been pillowed there. 

Mimia, absorbed by sad and conflicting 
thoughts, and Mary Lynn, scarce conscious 
of anything but love and hope, took no 
heed of the brilliant sunset, nor of their 
boatman's strange manceuvres, when sud^ 
denly a wild shriek escaped the lips of 
both, and they clung to each other in an 
agony of terror. 

The boat capsized, and they in a moment 
were in the water ! 

Minna was the first to recover her self- 
possession. 

She could swim. Mary, alas ! could 
not! 

Dan Devrill, in the hope that they would 
both swiftly go to the bottom, had dived 
out of sight — he was a practised diver. 
He intended, as soon as both the ladies 
had sunk, to rise to the surface, right the 



ACQUITTED. 215 



boat, and make for a rocky point he 
knew of. 

He was not at all prepared, when he 
came to the surface, to find Minna clinging 
to the boat with one hand, and supporting 
Mary Lynn with the other ! 

The wretch seized an oar which floated 
near him, and the horrified Minna saw him 
glaring on them with murderous purpose 
and cruel rage — and as his carroty wig 
and beard were gone, carried off by the 
waves, and the red paint had been 
washed from his face by the foam, the 
truth flashed across her mind in an 
instant ! 

She recognised the villain, Dan Devrill, 
just as he was about to strike her on the 
head with the oar. 

Her shrieks and prayers would of course 
have been vain, as addressed to the ruffian, 
but they were heard by One who had power 
to paralyse the arm of that murderer ! 

For .the first time in his life, Dan 



216 ACQUITTED. 



Devrill Avas seized witli cramp while in 
the water! 

Cramp in all his limbs ! 

The oar dropt from his powerless hands, 
and w^ith a hideous oath and a tierce yell 
of pain and despair, he sank. 

Three times he rose to the surface, but 
unable to strike out, or do aught to save 
himself, he at last disappeared, to rise no 
more ! 

" Heaven is for us !" said Minna, to the 
almost unconscious Mary Lynn. " Bear 
up, dear g-irl ! I fancy I see a boat at no 
great distance. Cling to me while I seize 
this floating pole, and fasten my black veil 
and your white shawl to it ! Hoist it. Oh, 
should it catch the eye of any one in that 
boat, we may yet be saved !" 

Mary could not speak, but she un- 
loosed her shawl with one hand, while with 
the other she clung to Minna's waist ! 

Minna hoisted her signal. 

There were some minutes of intense 



ACQUITTED. 217 



suspense! And then she could see a red 
ilag. hoisted, as an answer to her signal. 

It was probably the pocket-handker- 
chief of some one in the boat ! 

"Courage, dear Mary Lynn!" cried 
Minna. " A boat with two men in it is 
coming rapidly towards us ! Oh, do not 
give way ! For Heaven's sake bear up a 
feAv minutes longer ! They come ! hark, 
do you not hear their shouts? Great 
Heaven, how pale — how icy cold she is! 
What shall I do ? My strength is unequal 
to this effort !" 

But Mary was not to perish. 

Just as she was about to relax her hold, 
and slip from the arm of Minna into the 
sea, the boat n eared. 

One of the men threw out a rope, which 
]\Iinna seized and passed round ^Mary's 
waist. 

A few minutes more and the now un- 
conscious girl was lifted into the Fretty 
Polly., Xatt Lynn's fishing-boat. Minna 



218 ACQUITTED. 



was placed beside her, and then, although 
the shades of evenino* were closme: round 
them, she recognised with dehght in her 
two rescuers Paul Penryn and Natt 
Lynn ! 

The agony of mind of Natt and Paul 
might be seen in their pale cheeks, 
their anxious glances at the prostrate 
and still unconscious Mary, and their 
superhuman efforts to reach the 
shore. 

At length they were able to land close to 
Natt's cottage. 

Minna, utterly regardless of herself and 
her dripping garments, followed Natt and 
Paul into the cottao^e. 

A good fire blazed in the grate, for 
it was supper time, and Rosy was busy 
cooking. 

" Leave Mary to Rosy and me for a 
few minutes," said Minna. " We will un- 
dress her and get her to bed." 

They spread a blanket on the hearth, 



ACQriTTED. 2\^ 



and Eosy brought out a nightdress of her 
own. 

''We must rub her with hot flannels," 
said Minna; "but first a few drops of 
brandy must be poured down her 
throat." 

This was done, and was followed by 
a shiver and some tokens of returning 
hfe. 

"Father of Mercies!" cried Minna, 
"what is that mark? ' M.A.,' a coronet, 
and a date !" 

" Oh, sister's always had that, it's a birth- 

. 

"No, no, no!" screamed Minna; " it is 
no birth-mark." 

But at that wild scream Polly Lynn had 
risen from her bed, and glided white and 
ghost -like into the room, and Natt, who 
feared some terrible catastrophe, had rushed 
in too." 

"Woman," cried Minna, "tell me, and 
you Natt Lynn, as you hope for Heaven, 



1220 ACQUITTED. 



both of you tell me, whence came this girl? 
She is /wt your child. She is — she must 
be—" 

" God sent her to us," cried Polly Lynn ; 
'' the waves brought her almost to our 
door on the morning after the wreck of the 
Golden Bengali 

" The wreck of the Golden Bengal^' 
shrieked Minna, turning almost fiercely to 
Natt Lynn. " Man, why did you not 
make this known? AVhy did you appro- 
priate another's child?" 

'' Natt warn't to blame," cried Polly. 
" The fault's all mine. He found the 
shipwrecked babe asleep in the sun among 
the rocks, the very morn our first-born, 
our Polly, breathed her last. He brought 
the motherless babe, hungering for food, to 
the overflowing bosom of the childless 
mother, and small shame to him, if any ! 
As it growed up, and its birth and breeding 
showed themselves in its delicate beauty 
and lady- ways, Natt Avanted to tell the 



ACQUITTED. 221 



Vicar the whole truth, but I feared it 
miirht be took from me, and so I over- 
persuaded and over-ruled him ; but my 
conscience has pricked me for many a 
year, and the thought I've maybe wronged 
Mary, and kept her from her rights, for 
my own selfish ends, has brought me to 
a sick, ay, maybe a deathbed; but Xatt 
ain't to blame." 

"Yes I be,'' said Natt; " I should have 
told the Vicar. A man should do what 
his conscience tells him is right, and not 
listen to his wife, or his own weak, sinful 
heart." 

By this time ^lary had opened her eyes, 
and found herself in Minna's arms, clasped 
to her bosom. 

The mother's tears were falling like rain 
on the pale and beautiful face of the long- 
lost child ! 

But not then or tliere did Minna, Lady 
Derwent, claim that lovely girl as her 
own. 



ACQUITTED, 



Rosy had helped her mother back to bed, 
and after a few minutes she approached 
Minna with a sealed-up parcel. She said — 

" Mother says here's all the proofs of 
what she've kept hid up so long. Mother 
says you'd best show them to the Vicar, 
and ask his Reverence to advise for the 
best." 

Then, bursting into tears, Rosy added — 

" But oh, Mary dear ! can it be true that 
we're not sisters after all? AYe always 
loved as sisters, and " 

''Hush, Rosy," said Minna; "Mary is 
much exhausted, and has fallen asleep — do 
not disturb her now. I am certain she will 
ever be a sister to you !" 

" Oh I but that can't be the same thing 
as being a real sister, and the same flesh 
and blood," said Rosa, still sobbing. ''It's 
like a fairy tale — I can't believe it." 

Natt Lynn had retired to watch over his 
poor Polly ; and Minna, after helping Rosy 
to put Mary to bed, told her she would 



ACQUITTED. 223 



take the sealed-up parcel to the Yicar, and 
then she would return to pass the night by 
Mary's bedside. 

" But you're wet through and through," 
said Rosy. '' You'll catch 3^our death of 
cold. Do change your things ; any poor 
clothes of mine would be better than 
those." 

She little guessed what a glow of happi- 
ness and joy ineffable warmed Minna's 
heart, and sent the blood dancing through 
her veins ! 

Paul had been walking wildly to and fro 
outside the cottage door, awaiting fresh 
tidings of Mary. 

Rosy had already been to him several 
times, to tell him how Mary was progressing. 
The last account was so satisfactory that he 
hurried back to his father with a light 
heart. 

Minna yielded to Rosy's entreaties and 
accepted a loan of dry clothes; and then 
seizing the precious parcel and clasping it 



ACQUITTED. 



to her heart, she fondly kissed the sleep- 
ing Mary, and issued* from the cottage 
door. 

The moon had risen, and the sea was one 
vast expanse of silver ripples. 

A holy calm was on the face of 
Nature. 

A soft breeze freshened the air; and the 
towers and battlements of Altamount Castle, 
silvered by the moon, rose to view as 
Minna made her way through the rocks on 
her Avay home ! 

At this moment a funeral bell tolled 
mournfully and heavily. 

That lonely woman, carrying that pre- 
cious parcel, as she made her w^ay up the 
little precipitous path of steps cut through 
the rocks, knew whose death that knell 
proclaimed. 

She fell on her knees, and this prayer 
burst from her lips — 

"Father in Heaven! have mercy on his 
soul ! — and Q^wide and streno;then me to do 



ACQUITTED, 



my duty towards the child Thy mercy has 
restored to me !'' 

Minna counted the seventy chhnes that 
announced the age of the mortal just gone 
I'rom grandeur to the grave. 

Then she said to herself, " No, no ! I 
miorht have sacrificed mvself to save thee, 
Jasper, and the son thou lovest so well; — 
but I too have a child now, and I will not 
sacrifice my child !" 

Of course, in this resolution Minna 
-was confirmed and strengthened by her 
father. 

To him she now confessed all that he 
had so long suspected. 

In his hands she placed the proofs of her 
private marriage, and those of the identity 
of Mary Lynn with the lost darling who 
had been carried away from her by the 
fierce waves when her strength forsook her, 
on the night of the wreck of the Golden 
Bengal, 

For the first time since his daughter's 

VOL. III. 15 



126 ACQUITTED. 



elopement with Jasper Ardennes, the 
Vicar's head was proudly erect as of yore. 
Peace sat on his noble brow, and happiness- 
lighted his dark eyes. 

For the first time since that sad day, he 
embraced his daughter without a sigh, and 
blessed her as lie had been wont to do,^ 
before she had brought a doubt on her 
name and fame. 

"It is not unlikely," said the Vicar, 
*•' that we shall be obliged to have recourse 
to law to ensure justice; but no matter, the 
truth is so clear, your claim so irresistible, 
that I do not hesitate,"' he said, as old 
Dorcas brought in the supper-tray, '^ to 
drink to the health of the Countess of Alta- 
mount and her beautiful, long-lost daughter^ 
Lady Mary Ardennes !" 

He then briefly told the faithful Dorcas 
all, and poured her out a bumper of wine, 
that she too might drink to the health of 
the Countess of Altamount and Lady Mary 
Ardennes I 



ACQUITTED. 227 



Down on both her knees fell poor old 
Dorcas, and as she drank that toast, the 
tears coursed each other down her furrowed 
cheeks, and — ^' God bless you, master, and 
you, my lady, and your blessed child. 
Amen !" burst from her very heart. 

Misfortunes come in crowds, and on 
the very night of the old Earl's death 
a telegram arrived at the Gastle, an- 
nouncing that Jasper Ardennes was no 
more! 

Just as his mother and all around him 
were rejoicing in an imaginary amendment, 
he fell back in his chair without a groan, a 
struggle, or a sigh, and his pure young 
spirit went on its unknown, but surely 
happy, way. 

In consequence of this terrible cata- 
strophe, the Earl's funeral was postponed 
until his grandson's remains could reach 
Altamount Castle, so that both might be 
consigned to the family vault on the same 
day. That day came at last ; but the new 

15—2 



228 ACQUITTED. 



Earl was in no state to act as chief 
mourner. 

The wretched man was raving mad ! 

The grand funeral took place all the 
same. 

* Tir « * 

Mr. Penryn of Penryn Manor House, 
and his son, our friend Paul, were among 
those of the neighbours invited to the 
funeral. 

Paul had hurried back to town, and to 
his duties, the day after ]\Iary Lynn's rescue 
from "a watery grave," as the papers say. 

It was long after office hours, but Paul 
was still in Mr. Cottrell's private room 
looking over accounts and letters, and 
making up for lost time, when a cab 
stopped at the entrance, and, in answer to 
a sharp ring and loud knock, Paul, at that 
time the only person in the house, went to 
the door, asked who was there, and was 
answered in the loud, hearty, honest voice 
of Colin Cottrell himself. 



ACQUITTED. 229 



Mr. Oottrell was in high spirits. A spe- 
culation in which Paul had embarked, in 
his employer s absence had realized a very 
large sum ; and better still, Lord Snowdon's 
persevering suit and delicate attentions had 
won from Rhoda a consent to be his wife. 

" You must be at the wedding, my dear 
boy,"' said Mr. Cottrell, "and so must my 
dear old friend, vour flither. And now 
listen : you told me you had a great object 
in view, in earning a thousand pounds as soon 
as possible. You have worked harder and 
denied yourself more, than I thought any 
young man of your age could have done. 
How much do you want now to make up 
the thousand pounds?" 

" With all my labour and economy," said 
Paul, " I have onlv made three hundred 
pounds." 

" Then," said Mr. Cottrell, " as your share 
of this, your own successful speculation, I 
present you with seven hundred to com- 
plete your thousand." 



230 ACQUITTED. 



Paul could not speak his thanks, his joy, 
his exquisite satisfaction; but his sudden 
pallor, his quivering lip and trembling 
limbs, and the tears that would gush from 
his eyes, were far more eloquent than 
words. 



ACQUITTED. 231 



CHAPTER XVII. 

*' My eyes would rain but tears of blood. 
My heart would burst with woe untold; 
But that I know that thou art young, 
While I am growing old. 

*' That thou art young, and bright, and fair. 
Beyond the loveliness of earth ; 
And that the hour which sealed thy death. 
Revealed th}' real birth. 

*' And that thy dear beloved brow 
Is bound wdth everlasting palm, 
While God's supernal glory garbs 
The Virgin of the Lamb." 

Charles Kent, 

HE remains of Jasper Ardennes, 
attended only by his valet, arrived 
at Altamount Castle in time to 
be consigned to the family vault on the day 
fixed for the Earl's funeral. His mother 




232 ACQUITTED. 



was detained at St. Malo by a terrible 
gale. 

She was to cross over to AVeyiaoutb, and 
thence to travel to Penzance. 

It was not yet known wliy Minna and 
Mary attended tbe old Earl's funeral as 
chief mourners. 

After the funeral, when all the distant 
relatives, friends, and dependents of the 
late Earl were assembled to hear his lord- 
ship's last will and testament read aloud by 
the family solicitor, our old friend Molehill, 
Mr. Trelawny came forward, and the will 
having been read, he briefly addressed those 
assembled. 

He gave a short history of the secret en- 
gagement and private marriage of Jasper 
Lord Derwent, at that time the Hon. Mr. 
Ardennes, with his daughter ]\Iinna; of her 
return to England with her child in the 
Gohkji Bengal ; of the wreck of that vessel ; 
of her escape, as it was so long thought, a 
childless mother; of the recent discovery 



ACQUITTED. 



ihat her child had been saved too, and 
brought up bv Xatt and Polly Lpm as 
their own ; and of the events that had led 
to the mothers recognition of her lost 
child ! 

He produced all the proofs of this strange 
eventful history, and informed all present 
that his daughter, now the Countess of 
Altamount, and her child. Lady Mary 
Ardennes, were advised and resolved at 
once to establish themselves at Altamount 
Castle. Molehill had already been made 
acquainted with all particulars, and was 
fully convinced of Minna's claims. 

He hated the woman who had hitherto 
been called Lady Derwent, for she had ever 
treated IMolehill, whom she called a petti- 
foaorer, with extreme insolence. 

When at the end of his speech Mr. 
Trelawny led forth Minna, Lady Alta- 
mount, and Mary her daughter, a murmur 
of joy soon grew into a tumult of approba- 
tion and delight. 



2U ACQUITTED. 



" Long live the Countess of Altamount 
nnd Lady Mary Ardennes !" said Molehill; 
and his words were echoed by all present — 
even by Paul, although he was very pale, 
and his lips trembled. 

" God bless you, Mary!" he said, " I do 
wish you joy; but my fairy palace is 
shattered — my heart is breaking !" 

" You have no right to break mine, 
Paul," whispered Mary. "We have plighted 
our troth, we have pledged our faith — I am 
your affianced — I must be your wife ! My 
mother is in our secret ; she knows of our 
engagement, and she approves of it. I have 
no one to consult but that dear gentle 
mother; for all the physicians celebrated 
for skill in mental maladies have met in 
consultation, and they consider my father's 
oase incurable." 

" Mary," said Paul, pale and trembling 
with emotion, " when I asked you to be my 
w^ife, I thought you were a poor fisherman's 
daughter, with no dowry but your virtue, 



ACQUITTED. 



your genius, and your beauty, no nobility 
but that of the soul, no wealth but that of 
the heart, no estate but that of the highly 
cultivated mind. Even then 1 felt un- 
worthy of such a treasure, what must I feel 
now — now that you are proved to be the 
only daughter and heiress of the Earl and 
Countess of Altamount !" 

" Why," sobbed Mary, " you must feel, 
Paul, that unless all the nobility of soul and 
wealth of mind and heart you ascribed to 
me as poor Mary Lynn, were purely 
imaginary, ni}' whole happiness must 
depend on your love, my whole pride be 
centered in you, my only ambition be to 
hear you say that all the hopes you had 
garnered up in Mary Lynn have been 
realized by Lady Mary Ardennes ! Paul, it 
were indeed a false pride that would lead 
you to break the heart that worships you, 
and to destroy her Avhom you promised 
so solemnly to love, to cherish, and 
protect." 



236 ACQUITTED. 



" Love lays the sliepherd's crook beside 
the sceptre," sighed Paul; "but yet . . . ." 

"I have no sceptre, and you no crook, 
dearest," said Mary. " You are a gentleman, 
and a duke can be no more. Often, in the 
olden time, the Penryns have wedded 
members of our house: I have heard you 
say so yourself. So there are precedents in 
abundance, as the lawyers say." 

Then smiling and blushing as he caught 
her to his heart she said — " Paul, don't 
compel me to sue you for a breach of 
promise !" 

y^i -.',i ^ '!« 

Little did the vain and heartless woman 
who had so long considered herself to be 
Lady Derv/ent, anticipate the terrible re- 
verse of fortune that awaited her on her 
arrival at Altamount Castle. 

Hard as was her heart, and narrow as 
was her mind, the death of her only son 
was at first a terrible blow to her pride, 
and to such affections as she possessed; 



ACQUITTED. -237 

but she was too essentially frivolous to dwell 
Ions: on an event whicli would for ever 
have darkened the life of most women. 

Before a week had passed away she was 
pondering in her own mind how to make 
deep mourning becoming to her — and 
visions of jet butterflies and bugle trim- 
mings, were suggested by her maid, as she 
secretly administered the now habitual 
''night draught," taking care to increase 
the proportion of alcohol with every 
dose. 

At the Penzance station Molehill met 
her wlio now, of course, considered herself 
the Countess of Altamount. All her 
luggage was so labelled, and her three 
little girls had already accustomed them- 
selves to the pleasant sound of ''lady" pre- 
fixed to their names. 

The Yicar, by Molehill's request, ac- 
companied him to the station, and both 
informing the supposed Countess that they 
had very important and distressing news to 



238 ACQUITTED. 



communicate to her, requested her to 
adjourn with them to the Railway 
Hotel. 

" My husband is no more," thought the 
lady, as flushed and excited she desired them 
to assist her to the hotel. 

As she walked by the Vicar's side the 
few steps they had to go, her chief thought 
was how very unbecoming a widow's cap 
Avould be, and that the title would pro- 
bably, by the Queen's decision, descend to 
her eldest girl ! 

The Vicar led the way to a sitting-room, 
and the rest of the travelling party awaited 
her ladyship's return at the station. 

The first dreadful announcement — 
namely, that of her husband's insanity — 
the lady bore with great resignation; but 
when the whole truth was conveyed to her, 
of the existence of one whose claim to be 
Countess of Altamount was clear and indis- 
putable, and whose daughter was no other 
than that very Mary Lynn whom she had 



ACQUITTED. 23f^ 



SO hated and wronged, slie became almost a 
maniac. She completely lost all ladylike 
self-control ; and her blood heated by evil 
passions and habitual intemperance, she 
abused the Yicar, Molehill, her rival the 
Countess of Altamount, and Mary Lynn in 
the o:rosse>=t lansruasre. 

She spurned little Molehill from her with 
bitter taunts when he drew near to try to 
comfort her ; then suddenly she rushed 
upon him, pulled his thin hair till it came 
out in grizzled tufts, boxed his ears, and 
would have torn his eyes out, had not the 
Vicar, seeing that Molehill could not defend 
himself, hastened to his rescue and forcibly 
held the hands of the virao^o behind her 
back, while she accused him of hypocrisy 
and forgery, and shouted out " Murder !" 

Suddenly, however, her face became 
purple, her bloodshot eyes stared at 
vacancy, foam was on her blackened lips, 
her Ihnbs became rigid, and she sank in a 
heap on the ground. 



240 ACQUITTED. 



The violence of her passion had brought 
on a fit, in which she was conveyed to bed, 
and consigned to the care of her maid and 
the family physician. 

Her illness was a very long and dan- 
gerous one, and while it lasted her children 
were located at the Castle under the care of 
Miss Osgood. 

When she recovered she went up to town 
to consult a solicitor who had been strongly 
recommended to her by her maid. 

Mr. Twist did not rank very high in his 
profession, but he was very unscrupulous 
and daring. 

Full of quirks and quibbles, and well up 
in forgotten Acts of Parliament, and all the 
backways of the law, his more orthodox 
brethren called him a pettifogger, but 
he often, with an equally unscrupulous 
Counsel, gained a verdict in spite of the 
most eminent and eloquent members of 
the profession. 

In Mr. Twist's hands the now deposed 



ACQUITTED. 241 



Lady placed her cause, and in the meantnne 
she accepted a good income offered her by 
the acknowledged Countess of Altamount 
— our Minna — who, as the new Earl was 
quite incapable of thinking or acting, took 
counsel of her own noble heart, her father, 
and Molehill, in this matter. 

Of course, all that Twist could do was to 
entail heavy expenses on his client. 

The rights of the Earl's first wife, 
Minna, and the identity of Mary Lynn with 
her long lost child, were too clear to be for 
one moment disputed. 

When, after being dragged through 
several other Courts, the now celebrated 
cause reached the highest and last refuge of 
justice — the House of Lords, all was right, 
for there the claims of Minna, Countess of 
Altamount, and Mary, her only child, were 
fully recognised. Her unfortunate rival, 
handsomely provided for by her, retired to 
Paris with her children, and there married a 
young French Count, solely that she might 

VOL. III. ]G 



2^2 ACQUITTED. 



still be called a Countess ; but he, being 
one of the worst and most extravagant of 
the modern French school of fast men, 
ill-used, neglected her, and squandered her 

money. 

* * * * 

It was in the greatest seclusion that Lady 
Altamount and Mary spent the first two 
years of their reunion at Altamount 
Castle. 

All that time the Earl was in a state of 
confirmed insanity. 

His moods varied from the deepest 
melancholy to the most violent and furious 
mania. 

Lady Altamount would not listen to the 
advice of the great and leading physicians 
pre-eminent in cases of mental disease. 
One of them, a clever but not very dis- 
interested man, kept an asylum near London 
for the accommodation of lunatics of wealth 
and rank. 

He gave it as his opinion that Lord Alta- 



ACQUITTED. 243 



mount could not recover, unless lie liad the 
entire charge of him at his own suburban 
villa, called "The Dulce Domum." 

Minna, however, would not trust her 
afflicted, guilty, but still beloved lord out of 
her own sight and keeping. 

''What is the use of wealth," she said, 
^' if it cannot be spent to mitigate as much 
as possible this, the most terrible of inflic- 
tions. Whatever Dr. Mortmain can do at 
'The Dulce Domum' I Avillhave done here 
for my afflicted husband ! I care not how 
many attendants he may require, what ex- 
pensive arrangements may be necessary — 
all can be met, all can be done — but he shall 
never be taken where his vnfe and daughter 
cannot see him at all times, and prevent the 
possibility of one harsh Avord or act 
being added to his sum of misery and 
anguish." 

During the EarFs milder moods his wife 
and daughter spent much of their time in 
his apartments. 

W—z 



244 ACQUITTED. 



Music had a great power to soothe and 
quiet him. 

Both the Countess and Lady Mary were 
excellent musicians. Both sang sweetly. 
For hours together the Earl would listen 
to the piano placed in his dressing-room^ 
and to the soothing airs the mother and 
daughter sang or played to him. 

At this time no visitors were admitted to 
the Castle, save Paul and his father, the 
Yicar, and the medical men. 

To the surprise of the latter the violent 
fits of mania had become less and less 
frequent, and at last had entirely 
ceased ! 

The Earl's melancholy seemed also to 
become less constant and intense, and fre- 
quently some plaintive air sung by his wife 
or his daughter would cause him to shed 
floods of tears. 

But just as a very decided amendment 
was taking place in his mental state, he was 
seized with a kind of typhoid fever, at that 



ACQUITTED. 245 



time raging in Cornwall, and which perhaps 
his medical attendant had brought to the 
Castle from some poor cottage. 

For some weeks Lord Altamount hovered 
betw^een life and death. 

For the greater part of that time he was 
■delirious. 

His wife and daughter were unremitting 
in their devoted attentions, and, as if to re- 
ward their subhme affection, the crisis 
passed favourably. 

The Earl's life w^as saved ; and there w^as 
good cause to believe that his reason was 
restored, for the first words he uttered, as 
he lay weak, w^asted, and wan on his bed, 
^fter the fever had left him, were — 

" Minna, my wife, my love, forgive and 
bless me!" 

Thus were the wife's sublime constancy 
and Christian forgiveness rewarded. 

He was saved and restored to her ! 

Paul had continued with Mr. Cottrell 
until the thousand pounds were replaced in 



246 ACQUITTED. 



the Three per Cents., and he had been pre- 
sent at the marriage of Rhoda and her 
EarL 

The day before the money was replaced^ 
Mr. Penryn received a letter from his niece 
" Ann," announcing her approaching mar- 
riage to a young surgeon, and asking her 
uncle and trustee to authorize her having 
her little fortune sold out of the funds and 
placed at her own disposal, to furnish a 
house and help her husband to purchase 
the stock and good-will of his former 
employer, who was retiring from busi- 
ness. 

Upon the receipt of this letter Mr. Penryn 
set out for London, but not till he had 
thanked his Heavenly Father, on his bended 
knees, and with many tears, for the blessing 
of such a son as Paul. 

" But for my dear boy," he said to him- 
self, " and his devotion, self-sacrifice, and 
filial piety, what shame, anguish, and dis- 
grace would be my portion now!" 



ACQUITTED. 217 



Paul received his father with joy. 

Mr. Cottrell, too, was enchanted to see 
his old friend. They all three drove down 
to "The Larches" to dine and sleep, and the 
next day Mr. Penryn sold out Ann's thou- 
sand pounds for the second time, and paid 
the sum into a bank indicated by his niece. 
As he did so, tears gushed to his eyes, and 
he whispered to Paul — 

" Good son ! — good son ! May God in 
Heaven bless thee ! And oh, my boy ! my 
friend ! my Paul ! thou hast saved ni}' 
house and thy cousin's little fortune. I 
never meant to do aught but greatly benefit 
her, when I yielded to that false Downy's 
delusive representations, and sold out her 
thousand pound stock with, as I thought, 
the certainty of doubling it at least, and all 
for her good. I am acquitted by my own 
conscience ; but oh, good son ! but for you 
I must have been pronounced guilty, if not 
in a court of law, at least by the verdict of 
society. Now I can raise my head once 



248 ACQUITTED. 



more, look all men in the face, and whisper 
to my long-tortured heart the magic word 
— Acquitted ! God bless and reward thee, 
thou best of sons !" and he kissed him as if 
he were still a child. 



ACQUITTEV. 249 




CHAPTER XVIII. 

" Pledged thus b}- thee to be cherished, thy spouse and 

thy future companion." 

Charles Kent. 

HE lilacs and laburnums were in 
full bloom, the white and pink 
May, and the snowy blossoms of 
the Gueldre rose added their charms to the 
shrubberies and gardens of Altamount 
Castle. All the birds were paired and 
happy, and the woods wore the bright green 
livery of the Lady Spring, when the joy-bells 
ringing in the soft balmy air proclaimed a 
wedding — a quiet, almost private wedding, 
too. 

No Bishop, aided by Archdeacons, united 
that happy pair. 

No Royal Duke gave away that blushing 
bride. 



250 ACQUITTED. 



No dozen titled bridesmaids, all blue or 
pink gauze, followed the bride to the altar, 
and wept and called her " poor dear!" 

In the little quaint old church at Pen- 
combe, the vicar, Mr. Trelawny, joined the 
hands of Paul and Mary. 

The Earl, still pale and weak but quite 
restored to reason, and full of contrition 
and love, gave away his only child to the 
noble-hearted man of her choice. His 
Minna had told him the story of their true 
love, and Minna was now his guiding star, 
his counsellor, his constant companion 
and friend — all that Avoman can be when 
she fulfils to the uttermost all the duties 
— the love-prompted duties — of a true 
wife. 

Minna approved of their daughter's love 
for Paul Penryn; Minna sanctioned their 
eno-ao^ement and lono;ed for their union ; 
and the Earl now saw with Minna's eyes 
and felt with her heart. 

Mary's only bridesmaid was her sister 



ACQl'ITTEB. 251 



Rosa. The foster father and mother would 
have been among the most honoured guests, 
but that the latter was still too weak to 
quit her room, and Natt was too tender a 
husband to leave her alone while Rosa was 
absent. 

Much more cheerful and enjoyable than 
most wedding breakfasts was that at which 
Paul and his Mary presided. 

Mr. Penryn proposed the health of the 
happy pair, and after Paul had returned 
thanks, the Earl of Altaraount said — 

'' ^lay the young couple whose union we 
now celebrate, ever find through life their 
best happiness in each other's love; and 
may they take warning by the errors of 
one, whose life might have been as happy 
and peaceful as theirs now promises to be, 
but who wilfully and madly drove from his 
side that an2:el of his hearth and of his 
life, a good wife ; and therefore, not only 
did he well deserve the desolation and 
anguish of his early manhood, but owed to 



252 ACQUITTED. 



nothing but her sublime forgiveness the 
comfort and the joys that have come upon 
and blest him in his noon of life." 

No happier newly wedded pair than our 
Paul and his Mary ever set out on that 
bridal tour which is the gay beginning of 
that serious iournev whose iroal is the 
grave. 

Two of the minor characters of that 
domestic drama, in which the young couple 
had played the leading parts, happened, 
strangely enough, to cross their path soon 
after their marriage. 

A few days after their wedding, while 
they were staying at a very quaint old 
hotel at Exeter (for they did not dash off 
by railway for the coast, on their way to the 
Rhine, but travelled in their own carriage 
with post horses, from one interesting 
English city to another, for some weeks), 
Paul induced Mary to come with him to 
enjoy the humours of an old-fashioned fair, 



ACQUITTED. 253 



coupled with some races, which were just 
then going on at Exeter. 

The scene was verv interestino^ to these 
3'oiing lovers of the picturesque and the 
antique. 

The weather was very fine and sunny, 
the air so balmy, and the spot chosen for 
the fair, just outside the to^^'n, was very 
green and rural. 

As they passed through the centre aisle 
of the fair, amid the din of the rival bands, 
the shouts of the showmen, the smell of 
oranges and gingerbread nuts, the Aunt 
Sallies, the thimble-rigs, the merry-go- 
rounds, the fortune-tellers, the card- 
sharpers, the betting booths, and all the 
humours of the races, Paul suddenly recog- 
nised in the fat face and form, and the 
coaxing voice of a thimble-rig man, who 
was urging him to bet as to which thimble 
the pea was under, the man who had been 
his father s evil genius — Sligo Downy ! 



254 ACQUITTED. 



Sligo Downy's little table stood before a 
small tentj which formed the entrance of a 
betting and drinking booth. His sly 
watchful eye had no sooner lighted on Paul, 
than he recognised the son of the man he 
had cheated, robbed, ruined. 

He suddenly backed into his little tent 
and totally disappeared, nor did he come 
forth again till Paul and j\Iary had left the 
fair. 

"Still a speculator, a cheat, and a hum- 
bug," thought Paul; " though now he tricks 
with peas instead of thousands, and his 
dupes are rustics who stake only pence on 
his promises. My dear father will smile to 
hear of Sligo Down}^ as a thimblerigger ! 
Sic transit gloria mundi /" 

But if Sligo Downy had gone down in 
the world, the next old acquaintance Paul 
met at these races seemed to have risen in 
proportion. 

Springing from a very smart and sporting 
dog- cart, dressed in the extreme of the 



ACQUITTED. 



fashion called '' horsey," and in company 
with two other young men of the same class, 
Paul beheld his late brother clerk — Fisk ! 

Fisk exclaimed, "Penryn, my boy, I'm 
glad to see you ! Wish you joy I Saw your 
marriage in the Times — glad to have the 
honour of an introduction to Mrs. Paul." 
And then— while Mary, to give Fisk an op- 
portunity of speaking to his old friend, 
made some little purchases at a stall — Fisk 
rapidly revealed to Paul that he was now 
himself a Commission Betting Agent, and 
driving a roaring trade. He added, that at 
the death of an uncle, who during his life, 
and even when he was in prison, would not 
lend him sixpence, but who had died in- 
testate, he, Fisk, had come into five thousand 
pounds ; that he had proposed to Sparks to 
enter into partnership with him; that the 
offer had been joyfully accepted, and that 
they were now making a fine living out of 
such dupes as he had himself been when on 



a high stool at Cottrell's. 



256 ACQUITTED. 



'* On commence par etre dwpe on jinit par 
etre frifon^'' said Paul, smiling; and Fisk, 
who pretended to understand French, but 
did not, thought it was a compliment, and 
said, — 

" Just so, old boy ! You've hit the right 
nail on the head I" 

" Oh, by-the-bje, old boy ! have you 
heard about Brymer ? Capital fun ! He's 
tied up at last. He got into a correspondence 
through a penny paper with a woman who 
signed herself " A Broken Lily" — said she 
was a young widow with tAVo hundred a 
year — only eighteen, and no encumbrances. 
Brymer, signing himself '' A Young Oak " 
(he might have said an " old hoax "), lie sent 
her his "Deep, deep Sigh," printed in gold 
on an embossed and perforated card. They 
met. She humbugged him into eloping with 
her. They got married in haste, and now 
he's repenting at leisure ; for she turns out 
to be thirty, has four children, and not a 
penny in the world 1" 



ACQUITTED. 2rj7 



"Ah," said Paul, " now Brymer may bring 
liis 'Deep, deep Sigh' into play indeed!" 

"Very neat, old boy. But there's the bell. 
Crusader's going to run." said Fisk. " I'm 
off. Come and see the race. Back Cru- 
sader — 100 to 5 ; double event. No ! Well, 
good-b3^e. Here goes !" 

"Yes," thought Paul; "on the road to 
rum I 

And he amused Mary with a funny ac- 
count of Fisk and of Fisk's party, as they 
walked back to dinner at their old inn. 

•ir ^r TT w 

Our tale is told, and we hope, that though 
poetical justice is rather out of fashion with 
writers, yet, as it is always welcome to the 
readers, they Avill thank us for having 
fairly awarded it. 

Without venturing to dwell long in a 
novel on that Highest Court at whose Bar 
we shall all be one day judged, and from 
which there can be no appeal, we, in justifi- 
cation of our title, venture to remind our 

VOL. 111. 17 



258 ACQUITTED. 



readers that, even as far as this life is con- 
cerned, we are, from our childhood to our 
graves, on trial before two Courts — the 
inner one of Conscience (that solemn secret 
Tribunal, from the verdict of which none 
can escape), and that public one, which, 
whether we call it " Opinion," " Society," or 
^^ the World," is all-important to the man}', 
and is really disregarded by none. 

It is true that some are fully Acquitted 
by the Secret Tribunal of Conscience, who 
are condemned by that of Public Opinion ; 
and some who cannot escape the verdict of 
"Guilty," whispered wherever they maybe 
in the startled ear, by the still, small voice 
of the Clerk of that dread Court, may still 
leave that of Society " without a stain on 
their characters." 

With regard to our dramatis perso?ice, we 
may state that Lord Altamount was of 
course pronounced " Guilty" by both the 
Courts of Conscience and of Society; but 
that he obtained his reprieve and a free 



ACQUITTED. 259 



pardon, through the intercession of that 
merciful and all-forgiving judge — a loving 
wife. 

That wife's early fault in leaving a good 
father for a false lover and a bad husband 
was so severely punished in after-life, that 
both her Conscience and Society recom- 
mended her to mercy. 

Our young wedded lovers, Paul and his 
Mary, are unirapeached and unimpeach- 
able. 

And Paul Penryn, sen., of Penryn Manor 
House, in spite of his weakness and his 
breach of trust, in spite of the agonies of 
his self-reproach and his terrors of disgrace, 
is, owing to the sublime courage and self- 
sacrifice of his good, brave son, brought in 
'^ Not guilty in intention" by the verdict of 
his Conscience, and by the verdict of Society 
is fully *' Acquitted." 

THE END. 



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